So, what do you do when your colleagues surprise you with the gift of being a passenger in a military fighter jet flight? That is exactly the situation that a particular 64-year-old manager at a French defense manufacturer found himself to be in with no flying experience in a fighter jet under his belt his whatsoever. What’s even more surprising is that he had never ever expressed the desire to fly in one as well.
He felt like he couldn’t say no when his colleagues surprised him with this weird gift. They had obtained special ministerial approval for this gift and their friend didn’t want to be rude. However, as expected, he was terrified of what might happen. The surprise had been given to him on that very morning and he barely had hours for mentally preparing himself.
Prior to the flight taking place, a doctor conducted his medical examination that should have been conducted about 10 days before the flight. However, it was happening only four hours before takeoff. He listened while he was stressed and confused about the safety briefing during which he was told how his ejector seat worked and as he walked into the cockpit, his heart began to race. His smartwatch told him that it was beating at 136-142 beats per minute. The poor guy was so nervous that he didn’t even properly check the safety equipment that he wore.
The plane was piloted by a French veteran military pilot who had more than 2,000 hours of flight time experience. Once the pilot leveled off and the plane experienced the negative gravitational load factor – it can cause the feeling of being upside down – the passenger tried to reach for something that he could use to hold onto but unfortunately ended up grabbing the ejector handle. You can very well imagine what happened next; he was flung into the air. Luckily though, he survived and the ejector mechanism didn’t work flawlessly and the pilot was able to land the plane without being ejected from it.
An investigation was carried out by the French government and the investigators noted that the Dassault Rafael B jet took off from an airbase located in Saint-Dizier, eastern France. The investigators wrote, ‘Discovering the feeling of the negative load factor, the insufficiently strapped and totally surprised passenger held onto the ejector handle and activated it unintentionally. This situation generated a feeling of stress for the passenger which was particularly felt during the ejection seat briefing where he had to absorb a large amount of information in a very short time.’