A 64-year old civilian passenger was accidentally ejected from a French Air Force twin-seat Rafale B fighter jet as the aircraft was taking off from Saint-Dizier 113 air base on March 20, 2019.
The backseater, whose identity was not disclosed, is said to be a man. He suffered serious injuries, including back injuries and was hospitalized. He’s reportedly in stable conditions and his health is not a cause of concern according to a French Air Force spokesman.
The incident occurred at 13.52 LT as the aircraft was taking off for a training mission. The pilot managed to land the aircraft with minor injuries to his hands (caused by the broken canopy).
A French air force Rafale B aircraft.
What happened is pretty weird: VIPs and journalists (including this Author) are often invited to take part in “orientation” flights, for communication or information purposes. The passenger-for-a-day is always given a detailed briefing that covers standard cockpit operation, emergency procedures, egress etc. You are clearly explained what to touch and what you should not touch in the cockpit. The ejection seat handle is one of those things you should be aware of. For this reason, in a previous post about flying as a backseater in a jet I wrote:
“As for the camera, I strongly recommend removing any type of strap to prevent it from coming into contact with the stick, throttle or, worse, with the ejection seat handle.”
Anyway, we have no clue what activated the ejection: it might have been a voluntary ejection, an involuntary one or even a failure, even though modern ejection seats are extremely reliable and malfunctions are extremely rare.
An investigation is in progress.
This article originally appeared on The Aviationist. Follow @theaviationist on Twitter.