JETTISON THE AIRCRAFT!
I have known several
people who have, for one reason or another, bailed out of an aircraft.
Luckily, I'm not one of them.
The first of these
was an instructor pilot I had in UPT. As an F-100 ("Hun") pilot
in Vietnam, he was making a low level pass on a hillside during
an airstrike, when his aircraft took several hits to its hydraulic
system. He immediately lost control of the aircraft, and it carried
him into the hilltop. The F-100 bounced off the top of the hill,
and he ejected out of the fireball. (He has the scars to prove
The plane went on
to burrow into the jungle several hundred meters on the far side
of the hill. (That's the reverse slope for you Army types). He
doesn't actually remember leaving the aircraft or being kicked
out of the ejection seat. He was too low to get full deployment
of his parachute. What broke his fall was the chute trailing out
and getting caught up in the treetops. He landed between the hilltop
and his aircraft.
Upon reaching the
ground, and getting out of his harness, he set up 5 survival radios.
He was supposed to have only 2 (one "hand-carried", and one that
comes with the parachute). He never confessed as to where he got
the 3 spares. Although the airstrike was still going on on the
other side of the hill, he was firmly convinced that every VC
in the entire universe had nothing better on his mind than looking
for him. He turned on his radios in time to hear one of his wingmen
talking to ABCCC (Airborne Command Post.) "I don't know, I didn't
see a chute deploy, but we have a good beeper". He picked up each
of his 5 radios in turn, and yelled into every one "I'm here!
The Air Force kept
plastering the other side of the hill for the better part of the
next hour until Air Rescue Service came to pick him up.
Not all bailouts need
be that exciting. Another friend of mine flew O-2's in South East
Asia. One day, while performing visual reconnaissance (sight seeing)
in a valley, he took a hit in his rear engine. Although he was
able to maintain altitude, he wasn't able to climb over the mountains
and get out of the valley. There wasn't any place to land in the
valley, and if even if there were, there wasn't any friendly place
He contacted the appropriate
agencies, got A-1 support, had the Jolly Greens standing by, and
worked his own rescue effort, directing the Sandys on the area
into which he planned to bailout. Once everything was set up,
he stepped out of the aircraft. After hitting the ground, he undid
his harness, walked about 25 feet, got on the penetrater, and
was hoisted away. He was on the ground less than a minute. That's
probably some sort of record.
One of my O-2 mates
got out of a T-33. He was on the gunnery range at Cannon AFB.
Unknown to him, one of his tip tanks was not feeding, and he wound
up with the CG out of limits laterally. As he went in for a rocket
pass at 2500 ft AGL, the plane broke sharply into a spin. He reached
for the handles immediately. He saw ground, he saw sky, and he
According to his wingman,
he ejected at the only moment when the cockpit wasn't pointed
at the ground. When he lost control, the plane snapped from about
90 degrees bank to full inverted. It continued to corkscrew and
the nose was pointed straight down when he ejected. It made another
half tumble to the full inverted position when it impacted.
My friend remembered
opening shock, and for some reason, he started counting; "one
thousand one, one thous" and he was on the ground. He landed about
100 yards in front of the flaming T-33 with its 4 rockets and
100 rounds of .50 cal.
Although his ankle
was sprained, he managed to hobble out of the likely trajectory
of the ordnance while waving off the range tower personnel coming
out to rescue him.
The final story of
bail outs involves a pair of OV-10's. They were on a cross-country
flight from Osan AB, Korea to Yokota AB, Japan. The flight was
routine until over central Honshu at FL 250. They encountered
dense clouds and turbulence and asked for vectors for separation
from each other. Before ATC could respond, they encountered a
sudden jolt of turbulence that slammed one plane into the other.
My friend never knew what hit him. One moment there was a bump,
the next, he's in an uncontrollable spin.
He bailed out into
the weather. As he's coming down, he can hear his (or his wingman's)
OV-10 coming around to get him again! The noise passed him by,
and faded into the cloudiness.
He landed in a farmer's
field, and was immediately ushered into the farmhouse. Mama-san
was pushing hot tea. Papa-san pushed the tea aside and offered
hot sake. In the meantime, they had called the police (the logical
thing to do in Japan) who contacted the JASDF (Japan Self Defense
Force). The JASDF contacted USFJ (U.S. Forces, Japan); who eventually
contacted 5th Air Force; who sent a truck to get him.
All three survivors
(the crews of both aircraft bailed out … there was one casualty)
were held in separate rooms incommunicado at the Yokota Hospital
until the accident board had a chance to interrogate them and
check out their stories independently. I got all my information
from one of the pilots after the board released its results. I
met him through my wife who worked as a nurse at the hospital.
She gave me one of
those telephone calls; "Honey, do me a favor, go down the squadron,
call this number (which I recognize as a Korean number) ask for
Martha. Tell her Brian is OK. He'll call when he can. (Several
weeks later, I find out who Martha and Brian are -- however at
that moment, I had no idea what I was doing). Then go to the BX
buy 3 sets of underwear, sizes x, y, and z, get 3 shaving kits,
combs, etc. ... Bring them to the second floor of the hospital,
leave them at the desk, and don't ask any questions." With my
wife, it's better not to ask.
Two weeks after their
release from the hospital, 2 days after being returned to flying
status, the 3 pilots were back up in the air.
I n pilot training
they teach us to never trust the ejection seat. You are actually
sitting on some webbing attached to straps. When the seat is ejected,
the straps are pulled in and "pops" the webbing in such a way
to "kick" you out of the seat1.
When this is done, since the ripcord is attached to the seat,
it, too, is automatically deployed. There is also a mechanism
that undoes the lap belt.
What you are supposed
to do is "beat the system". That is, try to undo the lap belt
manually, push yourself out of the seat and pull the ripcord.
If the seat is working properly, this is humanly impossible. Nobody
moves that fast.
Nonetheless, one of
the UPT Class patches shows a parachute deployed on the ground.
The risers trail into a crater. Out of the crater is a hand holding
a ripcord. The motto reads: "Beat the System".
There have been some pilots, who, with the iron grip of fear
and confusion, have been able to hang on and ride the seat