It isn’t too often that civilians get the opportunity to participate in a fly-along in a fighter jet. This is normally reserved for celebrities, journalists and those lucky few who know the right people. But that isn’t to say that an everyday Joe doesn’t occasionally have his chance to make a dream come true.
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One unnamed 64-year-old man was chosen for a ride along with the French Air Force in Saint-Dizier Airbase in northern France on March 21st. The elderly man was put into a French Rafale-B fighter jet, a twin-seated version that is predominately used for these fly-along trips.
According to BRG as the jet was taking off, the 64-year-old man was launched out of the jet as his emergency eject was triggered, sending him hurling into the air before landing on the runway. The man reportedly suffered minor injuries to his back.
The pilot, who suffered minor injuries to his hands from broken glass, was able to turn the jet around and land it safely. It’s unclear what caused the elderly man to eject as he swears he did not pull any levers in the cockpit. It’s actually quite difficult to accidentally pull the ejection lever in a cockpit, especially as there is an in-depth rundown prior to flight of what not to touch.
“You are clearly explained what to touch and what you should not touch in the cockpit,” David Cenciotti of the Aviationist wrote. “The ejection seat handle is one of those things you should be aware of.”
In turn, the French military opted to temporarily ground some of the Rafale jets while investigators looked into what caused the untimely ejection. The investigators needed to determine whether the ejection was voluntary, involuntary, or a simply malfunction. On March 28th, the Rafale jets were put back into operation.
We may not know the cause of the accident quite yet, but it’s hard not to immediately relive the “Top Gun” scene when Goose dies in a similar accident. Thankfully, this turned out much better for the elderly flier.
The video below is the testing of the Martin-Baker ejection seat, which is the same seat used in the Rafales.