A 64-year-old man unexpectedly ejected from the rear seat of a Rafale B fighter during takeoff at Saint Dizier-Robinson air base in France. The unnamed man was reportedly a civilian who was invited to fly aboard the fighter during a routine training flight on March 20th.
While details remain sparse, the man suffered back injuries 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.”
French officials have been clear 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, as many journalists and public officials are often invited to fly aboard military aircraft in nations around the globe.
An investigation into how or why the man ejected is underway, and 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. They’re built to be able to function at near zero speed and altitude, fortunately for the passenger who ejected.