AKA "Emergency Eject" means "EMERGENCY"
BANG! And passenger was gone
Joyrider accidentally ejects from SAAF aerobatic aircraft
Oct 31, 2009 9:26 PM | By ROGER MAKINGS
A South African Air Force Silver Falcons aircraft like the one involved in the ejection
The civilian passenger was expecting the ride of a lifetime when he strapped himself into the back seat of a South African Air Force Silver Falcons aircraft.
But after the aircraft took off, he got more than he bargained for - way more.
Although confirmed details are thin, it is probable that during an aerobatic manoeuvre, the passenger tried to steady himself by grabbing the black and yellow striped handle between his legs.
And that's when the ride really began.
The ejection sequence started with the firing of the three cartridges in the Martin Baker-built seat. The seat lifted about 45cm off the floor and this activated the two rockets.
Passenger and seat smashed through the Perspex canopy of the Pilatus PC-7 Mk II and, pulling about 20G, was 100ft out of the aircraft in two seconds flat.
The bewildered, and probably terrified, former occupant, whose identity has not been revealed, would have found himself floating in the crisp afternoon air of the Western Cape's Langebaanweg, probably watching as his equally stunned pilot, Captain Gerhard Lourens, circled to make sure his erstwhile passenger was okay.
In confirming Wednesday's incident, the SAAF said a board of inquiry had been established.
"Much of the information has yet to be tested, but it is confirmed that a civilian passenger unintentionally ejected from a Silver Falcons Pilatus PC-7 Mk II Astra during a general flying sortie out of Langebaanweg Air Force Base this week.
"The passenger was recovered (by helicopter) unharmed, and returned to Langebaanweg. The aircraft landed safely."
The spokesman said the flight had been cleared and all procedures adhered to "prior to the passenger boarding the aircraft", making it unlikely charges would follow.
A retired SAAF instructor pilot said yesterday the passenger could consider himself extremely lucky to have survived the ejection with barely a scratch.
"We train for this and if you don't get it right, and are not in the correct ejection posture, you can sustain severe spinal cord injuries or even worse."
He said it was not possible that the seat fired of its own accord. There were too many safety features built into the system.
"All it takes is for the firing handle (the rubbery black and yellow striped loop) to be pulled up about 2.5cm and you're on your way out."
He said the ejection would have been dramatic. "You get one almighty kick under the backside and then you're gone.
"The seat separates from the pilot automatically and the chute opens. This is in case the pilot is incapacitated during the ejection."
He added that the passenger would have received a thorough briefing on the ejection sequence and warned that the "loop" between his legs was not to be touched unless the pilot called "eject, eject, eject" during the flight.
Such a briefing is done routinely, even when two qualified pilots are involved in the flight.
It is likely the rear cockpit was extensively damaged by the firing of the cartridges and rockets during the ejection.
The Silver Falcons are the SAAF's aerobatic team that perform precision formation and aerobatics displays at airshows around the country. The five pilots are all serving instructors at Central Flying School, Langebaanweg.
As one observer put it: "What a trip. That guy took off in an Astra, came down in a parachute, and landed back at base in a helicopter. Not bad for a for a single flip."
BANG! And passenger was gone - Times LIVE