Gifting a joyride to a friend on a roller-coaster is a different thing and on a fighter jet is another and a Rafale pilot and his friends learnt it a hard way. Last month, a civilian passenger accidentally ejected from a twin-seat Rafale B fighter jet in France not only causing him serious injuries, but also putting the multi-million dollar advanced fighter jet in the harm's way.
According to a report on Aerotime.Aero a 64-year-old employee of a French defense manufacturer was surprised by his four friends including a former pilot of the French Air Force by gifting him a joyride on the twin-seat Rafale B fighter jet at the Saint-Dizier 113 airbase, eastern France.
During the flight, the terrified passenger accidentally pulled the ejection seat lever, which failed to operate properly resulting in passenger falling on ground, suffering injuries. As per the final report of the French investigation bureau for State aviation safety (BEA-E) the incident resulted a chain reaction of both human and technical failures, and could have caused plane to crash, but the pilot kept his calm and handled the jet as per the manual.
He took the jet away from inhabited areas, dumped fuel and landed successfully back at the airbase. The pilot then evacuated the cockpit by himself, fearing that the ejection seat could activate at any time.
As per the report, due to the “informal” setting of the flight, the passenger was examined by a doctor only four hours before the flight and was declared apt to fly, while the usual cool-off period is 7-10 days.
However, the passenger was not ready to fly and was already nervous when he entered the cockpit, with his heart rate recorded between 136 and 142 beats per minute. While there's ground staff for the installation of pilot into the cockpit, he did it by himself. This resulted in loose seat straps and his visor was up.
While in-flight, “Discovering the feeling of the negative load factor, the insufficiently strapped and totally surprised passenger held onto the ejector handle and activated it unintentionally,” states the report. The civilian lost his helmet and oxygen mask during ejection and the dinghy failed to inflate, highlighting the flaw in seat.
The victim said he took the flight due to the social pressure of his colleagues. Local media reported that the glass of the canopy injured the pilots hands too, however “He then remained calm to pilot his plane despite the multitude of failure messages that the on-board computer displays and an unusual aircraft centering following the loss of the rear seat and the canopy,” says the investigation, which analyzed the radio recordings.