A 64-year-old man unexpectedly ejected from the rear seat of a Rafale B fighter during takeoff at Saint Dizier-Robinson Air Force Base in France. The unnamed man was reportedly a civilian that was invited to fly aboard the fighter during a routine training flight.
While details remain sparse, the man suffered back injuries that some local media outlets have characterized as “severe,” though he is now listed in stable condition with French officials saying his health is no longer a “cause for concern.”
The pilot also suffered injuries to his hands, sustained as a result of the broken canopy, but was nonetheless able to maintain control of the aircraft and land it safely soon after the ejection.
French officials have been clear that the civilian passenger was not a member of the French armed forces, but was rather taking part in an “observation flight” that had been approved by the nation’s Minister of Defense for communications purposes. This is not an unusual practice, with many journalists and public officials often invited to fly aboard military aircraft in nations all around the globe.
An investigation into how or why the man ejected is underway, and currently it’s unclear if he intentionally pulled the ejection lever or if it was a result of an equipment malfunction. Whenever civilians are brought into aircraft like the Rafale B, it’s common to give them an extensive crash course into aircraft safety, including where to find the ejection lever (along with a stern explanation of why not to pull it).
The Mk-F16F ejection seat found on board the Rafale B is among the lightest and most modern in the world, and are built to be able to function at near zero speed and altitude–fortunately for the passenger that ejected.
Image courtesy of WikiMedia Commons