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March 01, 2005

Fasten Your Seatbelt Please

Look at this picture.
Do you notice that there`s no canopy?
There`s also no RIO (Radar Intercept Officer) or backseater.


When I first got this picture I wondered what the heck happened because normally F-14 Tomcats have a 2 man crew and when they eject they do it in tandem.
So when I saw this picture of a pilot flying a Tomcat without the canopy and no RIO in the backseat I knew it was highly unusual and decided to find out what happened.

A Navy Commander and CO of an F-18 squadron knew exactly what happened and gave me the details.

The Tomcat was from VF-213 and was on a training exercise at NAS Fallon, NM, which is Topgun school.
Before each simulated air combat mission the pilots do what`s called a "G warm up".
In a G warm up the pilot pulls a 4 G left bank, a 4 G right bank ( port and starboard ) and then flies inverted to test out the aircraft.
On this particular flight the pilot didn`t have his regular RIO but rather a ship Captain flying backseat.
The Captain in the backseat didn`t strap himself in properly so when they went into the G warm up manuevers he started slipping out of his seat and when the aircraft went inverted ( upside down ) he ended up on the canopy.
In an attempt to get himself back down to his seat he grabbed the only thing he could reach and pulled.
What he grabbed just happened to be the ejection ring on the seat, so when he pulled it.....

The aircraft was doing 350 knots when he ejected upside down. It`s doing that speed in the picture and the pilot didn`t slow down until he started his approach.
It`s a wonder he didn`t freeze to death.
I thought it was hilarious when he told me that and the squadron CO couldn`t help from grinning while he was telling it.
The next time you do something stupid just remember that even the best and brightest that our nation has to offer has an occasional brain fart.

- Joatmoaf -

March 1, 2005 at 09:00 AM | Permalink


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My question did the CO have wings or surface warfare pin?

Posted by: Dex at Mar 1, 2005 9:44:34 AM

He was a Carrier Captain and as such, a pilot.
They do allow non pilots to ride shotgun sometimes, but never on real missions.
Fallon is where the Navy trains its Topgun pilots and it`s the most realistic simulated air to air combat in the world, so I don`t think they would allow a novice to "go along for the ride."
The Captain just had a brain fart. He knew the routine but as a ships Captain he doesn`t get to fly as much as squadron personel and simply forgot to cinch his harness tight enough.
Only qualified pilots with at least 2000 carrier landings and I don`t know how many thousands of flight hours can become Carrier Captains.
The Captain probably knew the F-14 routine better than the pilot, he just had a brain fart.
It happens.

Posted by: Joatmoaf at Mar 1, 2005 10:11:56 AM

So, if he was out of his seat, against the canopy when he pulled the ejection ring, did he survive?

Posted by: MadMonk at Mar 1, 2005 11:31:45 AM


Posted by: Joatmoaf at Mar 1, 2005 1:46:41 PM

RU sure it was a full 06? sounds like something a "Plane Captain" (e3 or 4) would do!

Posted by: Mr Bob at Mar 1, 2005 6:34:42 PM

I meant no disrespect to E3's and 4's, I am enlisted myself

Posted by: Mr Bob at Mar 1, 2005 6:35:52 PM

Yeah, it was an 06 Captain.
He didn`t come completely out of the harness.
What happened was that when the maneuvers were being performed his harness was loose enough to cause him to start slipping out of his seat slowly and when the fligh went in an inverted roll he slid up (down) to the canopy.
Basicaly his head and shoulders were on it and he tried to pull himself back down (up) to his seat but he grabbed the ejection D-ring.
From what I understand he went back to duty with no harm done.
Ejection seats are tricky. You could eject normally and have permenant back damage or like this case eject abnormally with no harm done.

The story for this came straight from the mouth of the CO of a VFA squadron.(I ain`t saying which one)
He told me yesterday and I posted it as soon as I got home.
I work for the Navy by the way, DoD civillian.
When I WAS in the Navy I was an AD (Jet Engine Mechenic)

Posted by: Joatmoaf at Mar 1, 2005 6:53:11 PM

Well it was a funny enough story I linked to it, and I got a lot of email from my Navy buddies laughing about it. I am in the reserves, as an IT. I joined after 9.11, had never been in before that.
I added you to my RSS reader last week, now I am glad I did, I heard about you from HH.

Posted by: Mr Bob at Mar 2, 2005 10:01:04 AM

Cool, thanks. I`ll reciprocate when I do some tweaking.

Posted by: Joatmoaf at Mar 2, 2005 5:26:02 PM

Fallon, NAS is just outside of Reno Nevada. My son is there as a SAR.

Posted by: Kirk at Mar 11, 2005 8:55:36 PM

Heavens! What a picture and story!

Posted by: Valerie at Mar 17, 2005 3:30:55 AM

Excellent story. I was wondering howcome the pilot didn't eject when the Captain pulled the D-ring. I thought that when either one pulls the ring that both seats are activated and both eject out the aircraft. Maybe the safies on the seat were on or something. Good story, excellent work, and keep up the good work.

Posted by: Zach Martin at Apr 20, 2005 7:36:00 PM

Dual seat aircraft have ejection seat selector switches which allow the crew to choose the mode of ejection. In this instance it was set so that if the back seater initiated ejection only the backseat would go.

If the front seat had initiated both would go as the back seat must leave first or he would be burned by the front seat rocket exhaust.

The other mode will initiate both seats to eject if either seat initiates ejection, with the back seater going first, again.

Posted by: Jonboy at Apr 29, 2005 8:59:56 AM

You`re right in a sense. During takeoff and landing the ejector seats are required to be set in the tandem position. Especially Navy jets since those are the most dangerous parts of a flight at sea. When they are in the air they switch it over to selective.

I find out more about this photo every day. For instance the backseater wasn`t a Carrier Captain as stated above, he was a VIP officer from the Cruiser Anzio, which when you think about it, makes more sense.
2 weeks ago I mentioned this photo to some pilots of our Perm Det squadron. They have a permenant detachment here so they visit us frequently. When I mentioned this pic, an Lt. said that the pilot in it was in their squadron but he wasn`t on that detachment.
In about 2 weeks (on their next Det) I`ll ask him in person so as to eliminate the rumor factor.

Posted by: Joatmoaf at May 4, 2005 8:40:24 PM

I am a Plane Captain in VF-213 and I was there when it happened. It was an Admiral not a captain.

Posted by: Matt at Mar 19, 2006 6:14:33 PM

if you were a plane captain ion VF-213, then you should know that it WAS a Capt., not an Admiral. and he came back to the hanger a few days later with a sore neck and joked about it.i was also there. the plane was down for quite a while, and we had another assigned to take it's place from vf-101. i also did the inspection on that aircraft.

Posted by: DAvid at Mar 31, 2010 1:16:58 AM