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Can A Pilot Eject At Mach 2?  
User currently offlineKeta From Germany, joined Mar 2005, 448 posts, RR: 0
Posted (8 years 4 months 4 weeks 6 hours ago) and read 21047 times:

I was wondering, imagine that a plane is flying at, say, Mach 2 and for whatever reason (missile, etc.), the pilot has to eject. Would the pilot be able to survive? The forces and sudden deceleration would be enormous, I guess.

The question is not meant to be for Mach 2 specifically. The question is, is there a limit speed where a pilot can eject safely?


Where there's a will, there's a way
37 replies: All unread, showing first 25:
 
User currently offlineStaffan From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 1, posted (8 years 4 months 4 weeks 6 hours ago) and read 21055 times:

I don't consider an ejection safe regardless of what speed it is carried out at. Since ejection is a last resort to stop the pilot from meeting the same faith as the aircraft when shit hits the fan what good would an upper speed limit do? No doubt that chances of survival at M2.0 are smaller than at M0.8, but what are the options?

User currently offlineSlamClick From United States of America, joined Nov 2003, 10062 posts, RR: 68
Reply 2, posted (8 years 4 months 4 weeks 5 hours ago) and read 21018 times:

Probably not, without an ejection capsule like most really fast aircraft had.

Check out some technical data through this site:
http://www.ejectionsite.com/acesii.htm

This question would probably get quicker, more pertinent responses in the Miltary/Space forum.

[Edited 2006-04-22 19:13:46]


Happiness is not seeing another trite Ste. Maarten photo all week long.
User currently offlineMikehobley From United Kingdom, joined Oct 2004, 30 posts, RR: 0
Reply 3, posted (8 years 4 months 4 weeks 5 hours ago) and read 21030 times:

I think that there was an occasion on which a crew ejected from an SR-71 at around Mach 3 - think the pilot survived but the WSO didnt make it due to massive forces............

User currently offlineBHMBAGLOCK From United States of America, joined Jul 2005, 2698 posts, RR: 5
Reply 4, posted (8 years 4 months 4 weeks 5 hours ago) and read 20994 times:

Martin-Baker are truly the world leaders in this at www.martin-baker.com.

Here are some interesting facts on ejection seats from their site:

Quote:
• Highest speed escapes using MBA ejection seat above 700 knots (800 mph) - Total 6
• Highest altitude escape using MBA ejection seat (both successful) British Canberra Bomber - 57,000 ft in 1958
• Highest number of successful ejections in one year - 494 in 1967
• Highest number of successful ejections in any one month - 63 in June 1967
• Highest number of successful ejections in any one day - 11 on 22nd November 1969
• Total number of lives saved with Mk10 seat as at May 2002 - 628
• Total number of NACES ejections - 39 (100%)
• Total number of ejection seats delivered - more than 70,000
• Total number of ejection seats currently in service - approximately 12,000
• 31% of the ejection seats in service are 25 years old and fully supported
• Countries operating MBA ejection seats - 80
• Countries operating Mk10/Mk10L ejection seats - 51
• Air Forces operating MBA ejection seats - 92
• Number of aircraft types fitted with Mk10 ejection seats - 46
• Aircraft types currently in service world-wide fitted with MBA ejection seats - 88

Here is something I found on the Ejection Site slamclick linked:

Quote:
1- What is the fastest ejection on record?

Although this seems to be an easy question, looks can be deceiving. 'How fast' is an imprecise question as it can be answered in several ways, for example: speed over ground, Knots Indicated Air Speed (KIAS), Knots Equivalent Air Speed (KEAS) and so forth. For example, some SR-71 pilots are rumored to have ejected at speeds of Mach 3 at 80,000 feet. This is a ground speed of around 2000 miles per hour, yet due to the thinner atmosphere at that altitude, the speed is closer to 400 KEAS. That is more like a 460 miles per hour. An F-15E pilot survived an ejection at a very small ground speed as he was traveling almost straight down in a spin, yet he was traveling at 780 MPH. This is over 1.6 times faster in equivalent air speed. Another difficulty with answering this question is determining the exact speed. Since most ejections occur in situations that are changing rapidly, it is difficult to get an exact speed of the ejection. Most ejection speeds are calculated values based on the recollections of the crewman, and what little evidence survives the aircraft's destruction. This can lead to very imprecise numbers. In the first known case of a man surviving a supersonic ejection, George Smith(IIRC will be verified) ejected from an F-100 Super Sabre in a dive. It was known that he ejected supersonically due to eyewitnesses who heard and saw the ejection from nearby based on the sounds of the sonic booms and the visual clues of the crash.



Where are all of my respected members going?
User currently offlineWrenchBender From Canada, joined Feb 2004, 1779 posts, RR: 8
Reply 5, posted (8 years 4 months 4 weeks 4 hours ago) and read 20971 times:

I would not count M-B as the 'best' in the world. Some of the most spectacular ejections have been from Russian a/c using Zvezda seats
http://www.zvezda-npp.ru/english/05.htm

WrenchBender



Silly Pilot, Tricks are for kids.......
User currently offlineSkyslave From United States of America, joined Oct 2005, 44 posts, RR: 0
Reply 6, posted (8 years 4 months 4 weeks 4 hours ago) and read 20946 times:

A little off-topic, but my grandmother used to think the "recline your seat button" was a button to eject her out of the plane. The thought of an old, grey haired woman being rocketed out the top of an airliner still cracks me up.

User currently offlineRC135U From United States of America, joined May 2005, 293 posts, RR: 0
Reply 7, posted (8 years 4 months 3 weeks 6 days 23 hours ago) and read 20866 times:

Quoting Mikehobley (Reply 3):
I think that there was an occasion on which a crew ejected from an SR-71 at around Mach 3 - think the pilot survived but the WSO didnt make it due to massive forces............

Actually the aircraft broke up at 80,000 ft and Mach 3 when the right engine experienced an "unstart" while in a 30 degree bank. The entire forebody of the aircraft became detached and the canopies were blown off by all the forces acting upon it, probably sucking out the two crew (the pilot's ejection seat was found in the wreckage). The full pressure suits provided a lot of blast and cold protection and both crew's 'chutes funtioned properly. I don't have access to what the WSO's fatal injuries were, and the pilot who did survive blacked out right at the breakup, regaining consciousness to find himself and his fellow crewman floating down under their main chutes.


User currently offline474218 From United States of America, joined Oct 2005, 6340 posts, RR: 9
Reply 8, posted (8 years 4 months 3 weeks 6 days 20 hours ago) and read 20803 times:

Quoting Mikehobley (Reply 3):
I think that there was an occasion on which a crew ejected from an SR-71 at around Mach 3 - think the pilot survived but the WSO didnt make it due to massive forces............

You are partially correct, the SR-71 broke up at Mach 3 and 78,000 feet. The pilot, Bill Weaver, was thrown out and survived and the Radar Systems Operator (RSO) was killed. The SR-71 carried no weapons so it did not need a Weapons System Operator (WSO).

You can read more about the incident at: http://www.wvi.com/~sr71webmaster/srloss~1.htm scroll down to 61-17952 SR-71A.


User currently offlineKeta From Germany, joined Mar 2005, 448 posts, RR: 0
Reply 9, posted (8 years 4 months 3 weeks 6 days 13 hours ago) and read 20678 times:

Quoting RC135U (Reply 7):
Actually the aircraft broke up at 80,000 ft and Mach 3 when the right engine experienced an "unstart" while in a 30 degree bank. The entire forebody of the aircraft became detached and the canopies were blown off by all the forces acting upon it, probably sucking out the two crew (the pilot's ejection seat was found in the wreckage). The full pressure suits provided a lot of blast and cold protection and both crew's 'chutes funtioned properly. I don't have access to what the WSO's fatal injuries were, and the pilot who did survive blacked out right at the breakup, regaining consciousness to find himself and his fellow crewman floating down under their main chutes.

Wow awesome! I thought a body would break up at Mach 3.

Quoting BHMBAGLOCK (Reply 4):
How fast' is an imprecise question as it can be answered in several ways, for example: speed over ground, Knots Indicated Air Speed (KIAS), Knots Equivalent Air Speed (KEAS) and so forth. For example, some SR-71 pilots are rumored to have ejected at speeds of Mach 3 at 80,000 feet. This is a ground speed of around 2000 miles per hour, yet due to the thinner atmosphere at that altitude, the speed is closer to 400 KEAS. That is more like a 460 miles per hour. An F-15E pilot survived an ejection at a very small ground speed as he was traveling almost straight down in a spin, yet he was traveling at 780 MPH.

That's interesting. What condition exerts more force, high mach number in thin air or high airspeed in thicker air? That would be which one creates more drag. Since it's D=0.5*ρ*S*CD*V^2 and both CD (I'd say) and V are much higher in high mach number (V true airspeed), I'd say more force is exerted in the high mach condition?



Where there's a will, there's a way
User currently offlineGrbld From Netherlands, joined Dec 2005, 353 posts, RR: 3
Reply 10, posted (8 years 4 months 3 weeks 6 days 9 hours ago) and read 20629 times:

Well that's just a load of baloney. Mach has NOTHING to do with groundspeed. So calculating groundspeed from your Mach number is a wrong calculation step. Mach 3 is Mach 3, and although Mach 3 at altitude is different in terms of airspeed compared to sea level, it's nowhere near 400 kts (it's higher).

Think of the Concorde that flies Mach 2 at FL700+. The machine gets so hot that it expands 3 feet. You'll remember the SR71 actually leaking fuel through it's body panels when it's on the ground. So aerodynamic forces are absolutely not comparable to a 400 knot airspeed.

One thing that is true, is that there's an enormous drag spike near M1. As you accelerate through it (which is the hardest part), you will find that drag goes down relatively. Imagine though after ejection that you will go through that huge drag spike as you're slowing down rapidly. You'll slow down the minute you hit the outside atmosphere, but deceleration will suddenly increase as you reach M1 from above. Probably very tough on the internal organs (which is also a major cause of death in car accidents, internal injuries caused by the rapid deceleration, all your organs being squashed against the front of your body).

[Edited 2006-04-23 15:02:15]

[Edited 2006-04-23 15:02:43]

User currently offlineBoeingOnFinal From Norway, joined Apr 2006, 476 posts, RR: 0
Reply 11, posted (8 years 4 months 3 weeks 5 days 23 hours ago) and read 20511 times:

I saw a show on Discovery Channel about people seeking mach 1, and one fighter pilot told a story about how he had to eject about 6000 feet above the ground in a speed just above mach 1. He got his legs ripped to pieces found only hanging in the main artery when he was found in hes survival raft in the water. His head was the size of a basket ball, and several other bones was broken, also the arms. He said chances of survival when you eject at that speed was very slim.


norwegianpilot.blogspot.com
User currently offlineBHMBAGLOCK From United States of America, joined Jul 2005, 2698 posts, RR: 5
Reply 12, posted (8 years 4 months 3 weeks 5 days 20 hours ago) and read 20434 times:

Quoting Keta (Reply 9):
That's interesting. What condition exerts more force, high mach number in thin air or high airspeed in thicker air? That would be which one creates more drag. Since it's D=0.5*ρ*S*CD*V^2 and both CD (I'd say) and V are much higher in high mach number (V true airspeed), I'd say more force is exerted in the high mach condition?

As indicated in the quote from my post, it's not so simple. Here's an example from Scaled Composites:

Quote:
While the first roll occurred at a high true speed, about 2.7 Mach, the aerodynamic loads were quite low (120 KEAS) and were decreasing rapidly, so the ship never saw any significant structural stresses.

FYI, here's the link to the full page: http://www.scaled.com/projects/tiero...Burt_clarifies_rolling_motions.htm

If you're wondering about exactly what the difference is between KIAS, KEAS, KTAS, KCAS, etc. are try this: http://www.wordiq.com/definition/Knot_(nautical)

Some of the better information will require clicking through another level deeper.

I also found an old Tech Ops thread with a bit of info here: True Airspeed, Groundspeed.....other Speeds... (by AA777 Aug 24 2004 in Tech Ops)

Quoting Grbld (Reply 10):
One thing that is true, is that there's an enormous drag spike near M1. As you accelerate through it (which is the hardest part), you will find that drag goes down relatively.

You're coming close to the real nut of the problem with a supersonic ejection. Even if you start with a high altitude, low density situation where the dynamic pressures are not too bad, your real problems occur after the ejection itself in the low supersonic/transonic speed range. You have to decelerate the human in such a way that both the human and the parachute can survive to subsonic speeds. Due to the great variety in altitude, density, pilot mass, velocity/mach number, etc. there is no simple cut and dried solution to the problem.

In the past, reliance on simple analog or primitive digital controllers really didn't make this much of a viable option. At this point we can certainly handle it technologically - the question is whether it's worth the weight penalties involved as well as some very expensive and potentially dangerous testing. You simply can't simulate this in a wind tunnel or using a rocket sled.

Quoting Grbld (Reply 10):
Think of the Concorde that flies Mach 2 at FL700+. The machine gets so hot that it expands 3 feet. You'll remember the SR71 actually leaking fuel through it's body panels when it's on the ground. So aerodynamic forces are absolutely not comparable to a 400 knot airspeed.

You're missing the fact that the SR-71 flys at altitudes considerably higher than even Concorde. It's really and truly on the edge of space. When the air is this thin, the aerodynamic forces really do decrease dramatically. Think about a shuttle launch. Max q occurs relatively low in the atmosphere at well below maximum velocity, even before the external tank is jettisoned.



Where are all of my respected members going?
User currently offlineN766UA From United States of America, joined Jul 1999, 8265 posts, RR: 23
Reply 13, posted (8 years 4 months 3 weeks 5 days 19 hours ago) and read 20396 times:

He can, but it ain't gunna be a smart move!  silly 


This Website Censors Me
User currently offlineN766UA From United States of America, joined Jul 1999, 8265 posts, RR: 23
Reply 14, posted (8 years 4 months 3 weeks 5 days 19 hours ago) and read 20396 times:

And we've never lost a blackbird so I have no idea how anyone would believe that anyone's ever ejected from one, especially at mach 3.


This Website Censors Me
User currently offlineBHMBAGLOCK From United States of America, joined Jul 2005, 2698 posts, RR: 5
Reply 15, posted (8 years 4 months 3 weeks 5 days 12 hours ago) and read 20328 times:

Quoting N766UA (Reply 14):
And we've never lost a blackbird so I have no idea how anyone would believe that anyone's ever ejected from one, especially at mach 3.

http://www.check-six.com/Crash_Sites/SR-71_953_crash_site.htm for example with pictures.



Where are all of my respected members going?
User currently offlineGrbld From Netherlands, joined Dec 2005, 353 posts, RR: 3
Reply 16, posted (8 years 4 months 3 weeks 5 days 12 hours ago) and read 20328 times:

Quoting BHMBAGLOCK (Reply 12):
You're missing the fact that the SR-71 flys at altitudes considerably higher than even Concorde.

Didn't miss it, but there was talk on here about an ejection under 80,000 ft.

Quoting N766UA (Reply 14):
And we've never lost a blackbird so I have no idea how anyone would believe that anyone's ever ejected from one, especially at mach 3.

According to the links above, you've lost around 20.

A few of my retired airline colleagues used to fly the F104 Starfighter here (or as they say in Burbank, fighter-on-a-stick) and lost a couple of them after ejection because of the airplane starting uncontrollable dives. And right after they bolted, the airplane would level out at low altitude and continue flying until the fuel ran out. A couple of them apparently ended up in Scandinavia  Smile
Must be a curious sight when you're hanging there in the air and you see your plane taking off without you...

Grbld


User currently offlineN766UA From United States of America, joined Jul 1999, 8265 posts, RR: 23
Reply 17, posted (8 years 4 months 3 weeks 5 days 4 hours ago) and read 20230 times:

Quoting Grbld (Reply 16):
According to the links above, you've lost around 20.

Well I'll be damned. I believe, however, the vast majority of write-offs were involving test aircraft, many being the A-12.

[Edited 2006-04-24 19:48:40]


This Website Censors Me
User currently offline474218 From United States of America, joined Oct 2005, 6340 posts, RR: 9
Reply 18, posted (8 years 4 months 3 weeks 5 days 1 hour ago) and read 20165 times:

Quoting N766UA (Reply 17):
Well I'll be damned. I believe, however, the vast majority of write-offs were involving test aircraft, many being the A-12.

The following site provides a write up on each Blackbird loss.

http://www.sr-71.org/blackbird/losses.php

By the way the majority of the losses were of the SR-71A. Which makes sense because more of them were built and they flew the majority of the missions.


User currently offlineSprout5199 From United States of America, joined Feb 2005, 1853 posts, RR: 2
Reply 19, posted (8 years 4 months 3 weeks 3 days 19 hours ago) and read 19997 times:

Dont forget the navy? guy who jumped off a balloon at 100,000+ feet. IIRC he was the first person and maybe the only one to go supersonic(very little air= very little drag=high terminal velocity) with out an aircraft of any kind. He didnt have any problems at all. I remember seeing something on it on discovery channel a while back.

Dan in Jupiter


User currently offlineWaterpolodan From United States of America, joined Feb 2005, 1649 posts, RR: 5
Reply 20, posted (8 years 4 months 3 weeks 3 days 18 hours ago) and read 19990 times:

This is a vaguely related question- Now that people are throwing up these SR71 links, I've been reading about that aircraft, and I've been wondering, is the sonic boom audible when the plane is flying at 85,000 feet? If it is at all, it probably sounds like distant thunder. Also, the record flight from LA to DC in 1 hour and 4 minutes just blew my mind. I have heard rumors that the plane could actually be pushed to mach 4 or above, any truth to that?

User currently offlineNZ107 From New Zealand, joined Jul 2005, 6428 posts, RR: 38
Reply 21, posted (8 years 4 months 3 weeks 3 days 12 hours ago) and read 19959 times:

One question I would ask is what direction do you eject in? If it's not powerful enough in a vertical line, the tail could come crashing through hitting you in the process. At roughly 500m/s, I doubt it would be able to clear it in the first place. Someone must have thought about this, surely.

Quoting Sprout5199 (Reply 19):
IIRC he was the first person and maybe the only one to go supersonic

I think that there would be some difference between free falling like that and ejecting from a speeding plane. The forces felt by the body when in free fall increase as the body nears terminal velocity. When ejecting, there will be a split second of the feel of going at some speed, ie half way through breaking the glass. The forces acting on the body (going at a certain speed then slowing down dramatically) must be greater overall.

Just my 2c IMO, anyone feel free to dispute it..



It's all about the destination AND the journey.
User currently offlineHaveBlue From United States of America, joined Jan 2004, 2108 posts, RR: 1
Reply 22, posted (8 years 4 months 3 weeks 3 days 8 hours ago) and read 19932 times:

Quoting NZ107 (Reply 21):
One question I would ask is what direction do you eject in? If it's not powerful enough in a vertical line, the tail could come crashing through hitting you in the process. At roughly 500m/s, I doubt it would be able to clear it in the first place. Someone must have thought about this, surely.

Well I do believe it is enough time to clear, even at Mach 2. The super fast acceleration of the ejection seat coupled with the fact that you also have that Mach 2 velocity as a starting point yourself. It does help, however, that these days that most fighters have twin tails so it wouldn't be an issue. And iirc the F-104 started out with a downward firing ejection seat, but was later changed to the standard configuration.

Quoting Waterpolodan (Reply 20):
I have heard rumors that the plane could actually be pushed to mach 4 or above, any truth to that?

I've heard those rumors too, and used to be an especially ardent believer in them myself. Though I would like to think it could do Mach 4+ I've read a lot since then that makes me think maybe that isn't so. And though Mach 3.2 maybe the operational limit, I'd love to know exactly how fast the test pilots got her up to. I find it amazing that even though the bird is retired, its specs are still classified until 2021. And 85,000' may have been an operational ceiling used for most flights, but I've seen 100,000' a lot in print and do believe that it is capable of that altitude.

[Edited 2006-04-26 16:24:38]


Here Here for Severe Clear!
User currently offlineVzlet From United States of America, joined Mar 2004, 835 posts, RR: 0
Reply 23, posted (8 years 4 months 3 weeks 3 days 7 hours ago) and read 19911 times:

Quoting NZ107 (Reply 21):
At roughly 500m/s



Quoting HaveBlue (Reply 22):
even at Mach 2

My first thought was that it's more a question of IAS than actual velocity or Mach speed, but I don't know how much effect any shock waves that formed on the pilot/seat shape would have on immediate deceleration.

Quoting Waterpolodan (Reply 20):
is the sonic boom audible when the plane is flying at 85,000 feet

From living in Germany in the 1980s, I can tell you that an SR-71 on a typical mission routinely generates a distinctly audible boom (a quick double boom, actually).



"That's so stupid! If they're so secret, why are they out where everyone can see them?" - my kid
User currently offlineWaterpolodan From United States of America, joined Feb 2005, 1649 posts, RR: 5
Reply 24, posted (8 years 4 months 3 weeks 3 days 5 hours ago) and read 19893 times:

Quoting Vzlet (Reply 23):
From living in Germany in the 1980s, I can tell you that an SR-71 on a typical mission routinely generates a distinctly audible boom (a quick double boom, actually).

Interesting, When the plane was flying overhead at that altitude could you see anything, maybe a tiny, faint contrail? 747s are hard enough to see at 35,000 ft, so I don't imagine anything more than the contrail would be visible of a blackbird at 80,000 ft...


25 SlamClick : A little insight into this can be gained from a space shuttle launch. At one point, early in the climb (low twenties?) an engineer in the background
26 Texfly101 : There's been a lot of work done on high speed ejections. NASA Dryden and the old Research Section at Wright Pat ran experiments during the 50's to try
27 Sprout5199 : That was the guy. Was cool to see the video from the balloon when he jumped. When they talked to him, he said there was no feeling of falling for the
28 SkySurfer : If the F-15 can do a high speed climb and 'top-out' to 105,000ft before falling back to earth, i'm betting the SR-71 got alot higher than 105K or COU
29 Texfly101 : Yep, he is a very cool guy. When I lived in Orlando, FL, he was the pilot who flew a Stearman biplane that advertised a local tourist spot. He and my
30 RC135U : You're right - it is RSO (for Reconnaissance Systems Operator). BTW the lost RSO on 952 was Jim Zwayer. Both crew were Lockheed employees.
31 474218 : I worked with Bill Weaver for many years he was an L-1011 production test pilot and retired from Lockheed several years ago. He still flies the Orbit
32 GDB : Grbld, Concorde expanded about 8-9 inches while in supercriuse, not 3 feet! I am surprised the successful high altitude ejection from a Mig-25, at I t
33 RC135U : I'm always struck by the breadth of contacts and experiences on these forums.
34 David L : I experienced this in Rheindahlen in about 1980, too. It was a clear, blue sky and none of us could see a sign of it, though I don't know how far we
35 SlamClick : Me too. I knew Bill Skliar (google him!) slightly. He was later killed preparing for the Reno Air Races. His memorial service was held in an old hang
36 Bsergonomics : First of all, the ejection sequence (simplified version, assuming a seat-mounted system): 1. You prepare yourself for ejection (legs out, arms in, at
37 Keta : That's awesome, I wasn't sure whether a body would withstand the force or not. Thanks for the post Bsergonomics!
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