During Desert Storm, the USS Theodore Roosevelt was on high alert. Petty Officers JD Bridges and Michael McDonald were prepping an A-6 Intruder fighter jet before takeoff. It was business as usual.
Mere seconds before the jet will sped down the runway, an accident that forever changed flight operations procedures occurred.
Bridges was completing checks to ensure the fighter was connected to the deck’s catapult for launch when he got too close to the high-powered engine and the turbine intake sucked him up in a split-second.
At full throttle, the Intruder’s engine generates 9,300 pounds of thrust — twice as strong as the most powerful tornado on record.
After Bridges got sucked in, the engine’s force violently pulled off his float coat, goggles, and the helmet from his head. Investigators believe that because his helmet was shredded by the sharp spinning blades, it partially jammed the engine.
The way the engine was designed, it ceased its own power and shut down immediately.
Miraculously, Bridges’ shoulder wedged against the nose cone as the engine slowed and he managed to remove himself out from the powerful intake space — escaping certain death. The aircraft’s pilot was ready to take off when he heard the disruption and powered down right away.
Within moments, Bridges was carried to safety, suffering from a broken collarbone, superficial cuts from a few pieces of shrapnel, and a blown ear drum. The Navy now uses this historic video as a training tool of what not to do while on the flight deck.
Bridges at a news conference a day after the accident. (Lithdad, YouTube)