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ThePointblank
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French Rafale Ejection Incident March 20 2019

Thu Apr 09, 2020 5:51 am

Back on March 20, 2019, a twin seat French Rafale B at Saint-Dizier 113 airbase experienced a accidental ejection during take off. The final report is now out, which describes what happened, and it's a bit of a absolute mess:

https://www.aerotime.aero/clement.charp ... vypNLiIPfX

The actual accident report (in French):
https://www.defense.gouv.fr/portail/min ... -2019-03-i

Basically, this was a mish mash of both human causes and a technical failures; the aircraft was being flown as a surprise joy ride for a 64 year old civilian defence contractor. Due to the surprise nature of the joy ride, the usual protocols surrounding such flights were ignored; the passenger was only merely cleared by a flight doctor 4 hours prior to the flight, and his medical information, including the provision that the passenger not be subjected to negative G's, was not communicated to the pilot. The passenger was also not given a opportunity to back out when this surprise was announced for him.

The passenger by the time he got to the airplane was already nervous; his heart rate was recorded between 136 and 142 beats per minute. The investigation found that the safety checks of the passenger had been approximate at best. He carried out most of his installation into the cockpit by himself. As a consequence, his visor was up, his anti-g pants were not worn properly, his helmet and oxygen mask were both unattached, and his seat straps were not tight enough.

Following orders of a regular training mission that involved two other Rafales, the pilot took off and climbed at 47°, generating a load factor of around +4G. Then, as he levelled off, he subjected his passenger to a negative load factor of about -0.6G.

Because the passenger was not properly strapped in and was now surprised, he grabbed the ejection handle and activated it unintentionally. During the ejection, the passenger lost his helmet and oxygen mask, and the dighy failed to inflate due to a technical problem with the ejection seat. The passenger sustained minor injuries as a result of the ejection.

The only reason the jet was saved was due to a technical malfunction with the rest of the ejection sequence; the safety board explains the procedure of a Rafale ejection in four stages: first, the back canopy is shattered by a line of explosives embedded into the glass, before the passenger seat is ejected. Then, the front canopy is also destroyed, and the pilot seat is the last to leave the fighter jet.

However, last stage failed and, despite his canopy being ejected, the pilot remained in his seat, with local media reporting that the pilot suffered minor injuries to his hands. The pilot followed procedures, and managed to bring it back in an emergency landing back at base after dumping fuel while avoiding residential areas. He then quickly vacated the aircraft in fear that the ejection seat could go off at any minute.

The safety board noted that the failure to eject the pilot was due to damage sustained by the casing of the sequence selector caused by the explosives in the canopy. The failure of the dighy to inflate was caused by the dighy not being folded properly inside the seat.

The board also noted that in the future, protocol must be observed for any future civilian observation flights; the passenger must undergo a screening at Center d'Expertise Médicale du Personnel Naviguant, and approval of the Ministry of Defence, and that a delay of 10 days should be respected between the medical visit and the flight, which gives enough time for the passenger to prepare both physically and mentally, as well as ensures medical recommendations reach the flight crew.
 
Ozair
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Re: French Rafale Ejection Incident March 20 2019

Thu Apr 09, 2020 9:02 am

What an absolute cluster!!!
 
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AirlineCritic
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Re: French Rafale Ejection Incident March 20 2019

Thu Apr 09, 2020 9:54 am

He got quite a ride!
 
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Francoflier
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Re: French Rafale Ejection Incident March 20 2019

Thu Apr 09, 2020 10:09 am

What an unprofessional mess.
Hopefully lessons will be learned.
I'll do my own airline. With Blackjack. And hookers. In fact, forget the airline.
 
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SamYeager2016
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Re: French Rafale Ejection Incident March 20 2019

Thu Apr 09, 2020 11:16 am

It seems the only saving grace of the whole affair was that both the ejectee and pilot survived without serious injury.
 
mxaxai
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Re: French Rafale Ejection Incident March 20 2019

Thu Apr 09, 2020 11:30 am

And they got a real-life test of the two seat ejection mechanism. Guess that part will see some modification as well.
 
Ozair
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Re: French Rafale Ejection Incident March 20 2019

Thu Apr 09, 2020 11:41 am

SamYeager2016 wrote:
It seems the only saving grace of the whole affair was that both the ejectee and pilot survived without serious injury.

And they didn't lose a 70 million dollar aircraft, kudos to the pilot for landing it without a canopy and injured hands.
 
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Dutchy
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Re: French Rafale Ejection Incident March 20 2019

Thu Apr 09, 2020 12:30 pm

Wow, these rules aren't in place for the fun of it, shown yet again. 4 hours preparation of such a joy ride,wow.
Many happy landings, greetings from The Netherlands!
 
889091
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Re: French Rafale Ejection Incident March 20 2019

Fri Apr 10, 2020 3:26 pm

Generic question here.

With 2 seat fighters, when the rear seat pilot ejects, it automatically 'forces' (for lack of a better word) the ejection sequence of the pilot in front? And vice versa?
 
GalaxyFlyer
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Re: French Rafale Ejection Incident March 20 2019

Fri Apr 10, 2020 7:28 pm

Switchable in most operational planes, either individually or when one seat is initiated the other fires. They’d be sequenced in any case, so the back seat goes first, protecting the rear seater from jet blast of the front seat. A lot of Navy back seaters survived while the pilot was killed during ship board ejections due to the inherent delay of separating the seat trajectories. The EA-6 had four seats!
 
RetiredWeasel
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Re: French Rafale Ejection Incident March 20 2019

Fri Apr 10, 2020 8:02 pm

GalaxyFlyer wrote:
Switchable in most operational planes, either individually or when one seat is initiated the other fires. They’d be sequenced in any case, so the back seat goes first, protecting the rear seater from jet blast of the front seat. A lot of Navy back seaters survived while the pilot was killed during ship board ejections due to the inherent delay of separating the seat trajectories. The EA-6 had four seats!


I gave a few incentive rides in the F-4. One of the critical preflight items was to make sure the command ejection valve that the backseater had access to, was in rear seat only. Although the rider was well briefed, there was no sense leaving things to chance. The other critical preflight item was making sure he/she had easy access to a barf bag. Right calf pocket in the G-suit was a common location with half of it sticking out.
 
angad84
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Re: French Rafale Ejection Incident March 20 2019

Fri Apr 10, 2020 10:24 pm

RetiredWeasel wrote:
GalaxyFlyer wrote:
Switchable in most operational planes, either individually or when one seat is initiated the other fires. They’d be sequenced in any case, so the back seat goes first, protecting the rear seater from jet blast of the front seat. A lot of Navy back seaters survived while the pilot was killed during ship board ejections due to the inherent delay of separating the seat trajectories. The EA-6 had four seats!


I gave a few incentive rides in the F-4. One of the critical preflight items was to make sure the command ejection valve that the backseater had access to, was in rear seat only. Although the rider was well briefed, there was no sense leaving things to chance. The other critical preflight item was making sure he/she had easy access to a barf bag. Right calf pocket in the G-suit was a common location with half of it sticking out.

I've done two, and each time was told not to touch the handle, and that if I did, I would be exiting the aircraft alone. I cannot for the life of me imagine how a cock up of this magnitude happened with the French AF. Thank goodness the system actually didn't work as intended, and the pilot was able to bring the jet home.
 
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kc135topboom
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Re: French Rafale Ejection Incident March 20 2019

Sat Apr 11, 2020 12:01 am

In the USAF, heads would roll for an incident like this. Is it the same in the French Air Force?
 
889091
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Re: French Rafale Ejection Incident March 20 2019

Sat Apr 11, 2020 11:50 am

GalaxyFlyer wrote:
Switchable in most operational planes, either individually or when one seat is initiated the other fires. They’d be sequenced in any case, so the back seat goes first, protecting the rear seater from jet blast of the front seat. A lot of Navy back seaters survived while the pilot was killed during ship board ejections due to the inherent delay of separating the seat trajectories. The EA-6 had four seats!


Would that also apply to single canopy 2 seater fighters? I would assume that once the canopy is popped, you punch out, regardless of the setting?

Eg: The F4 had 2 separate canopies. F14 - single. F16 (2 seater) - single
 
GalaxyFlyer
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Re: French Rafale Ejection Incident March 20 2019

Sat Apr 11, 2020 1:51 pm

No, you still to separate the two seats to ensure the aft pilot doesn’t get jet blast and to eliminate the possibility of collision between the two.
 
889091
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Re: French Rafale Ejection Incident March 20 2019

Sat Apr 11, 2020 2:59 pm

GalaxyFlyer wrote:
No, you still to separate the two seats to ensure the aft pilot doesn’t get jet blast and to eliminate the possibility of collision between the two.


Sorry GalaxyFlyer, perhaps I could have phrased my question better.

What I meant was, in aircraft with a single canopy (2 seats), can the aft pilot eject whilst the pilot in front remains on board? It relates to the entire canopy being popped and the front pilot being subjected to potentially 250kt+ winds should he decide not to eject.

In the Phantom, should the rear pilot eject, the front pilot still has a canopy above/in front of him to shield him from the wind.

The F-111 had a capsule containing both pilots which is ejected from the airframe.
 
GalaxyFlyer
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Re: French Rafale Ejection Incident March 20 2019

Sat Apr 11, 2020 3:36 pm

You could in the F-100; but that’s pretty old technology. A Viper or Eagle pilot might have a modern answer.
 
ThePointblank
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Re: French Rafale Ejection Incident March 20 2019

Mon Apr 13, 2020 2:26 am

GalaxyFlyer wrote:
You could in the F-100; but that’s pretty old technology. A Viper or Eagle pilot might have a modern answer.

On a F/A-18 A/B/C/D, the NATOPS says this:

2.22.7 Ejection Seat System. Ejection seats are installed in both cockpits. In addition, a sequencing system is installed to allow dual ejection initiated from either cockpit or single (aft) seat ejection initiated from the rear cockpit. A command selector valve is installed in the rear cockpit to control whether ejection from the rear cockpit is dual or single.


The F-16 is similar; there is a ejection seat mode selector switch in the back seat, and it can be set Aft - Norm - Solo:
Solo is obvious..keeps the back seat in the jet when the front seater punches
AFT mode - either cockpit pulls the handle, the seats will sequence back to front
NORM mode - if the back seater pulls the handle, only he goes, and if the front seater pulls the handle the seats will sequence back to front
 
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Tugger
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Re: French Rafale Ejection Incident March 20 2019

Mon Apr 13, 2020 6:16 pm

Well, it made it into the larger news cycle:
https://www.cnn.com/travel/article/fran ... index.html

Tugg
I don’t know that I am unafraid to be myself, but it is hard to be somebody else. - W. Shatner
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aviators99
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Re: French Rafale Ejection Incident March 20 2019

Mon Apr 13, 2020 8:47 pm

Other than damage to the sequence selector, the article (at least the English one) doesn't mention any other damage to the aircraft. Do we think it's flying again?
 
Ozair
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Re: French Rafale Ejection Incident March 20 2019

Mon Apr 13, 2020 9:15 pm

aviators99 wrote:
Other than damage to the sequence selector, the article (at least the English one) doesn't mention any other damage to the aircraft. Do we think it's flying again?

Incident happened over a year ago now so you would expect so. A new canopy would have been within the spares pool. The question is whether the two-seat fleet, and likely the whole fleet, was grounded for a period of time to allow inspections of all the seats to ensure that they were functioning correctly, all dinghy's installed correctly etc?
 
ThePointblank
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Re: French Rafale Ejection Incident March 20 2019

Mon Apr 13, 2020 10:07 pm

I believe the dual seat Rafales were grounded temporarily for inspections.

The aircraft involved was msn 358 of Escadron de Transformation Rafale 3/4 Aquitaine per my weak French.

There is also pictures of the jet involved after it had landed in the report; I believe the report says that the aircraft was missing it's canopy and rear seat, had traces of powder residue, the canopy frame had deformed and the rear seat demister lines have broken.

There's also a mention of a GoPro inside the cockpit as well, and the fact that they knew the passenger's heartbeat rate was because the passenger was wearing a smart watch.

And something about the ejection seat handle being abnormally separated from the seat at the crash site? Something about the connecting rod rupturing.

The note about the ejection selector being damaged says that the issue was that the detonation wave was not transmitted from one internal component to another. Thus the pyrotechnic order did not activate the line between the sequencer and the front seat, which caused the selector housing to break at the point where the line is maintained. The root cause of this was an improperly tightened line retaining screw in the selector body. And something about similar minor incidents related to the same system in 2007 and 2008?

A note about the pilot involved; he was apparently the second in command of the squadron, a qualified patrol leader, and had about 2,000 hours of flight time at the time of the accident, with 905 hours in the Rafale.

Also, the report noted that the squadron involved had fairly lax procedures regarding VIP flights; the requirement that passengers be examined 10 days prior to the flight was frequently ignored by the squadron, with examinations the day of being common.

The report recommends that the 10 day waiting period be adhered to in the future, that a flight profile that is better suited for passengers with medical conditions also be developed for these VIP flights, a passenger guide be developed for two-seater planes equipped with ejection seats, a that a technical program be developed to better inspect the screws holding the lines leading up to the selector body, and that a technical bulletin related to the dinghy be adhered to, and a solution be developed to fix a related issue of the dinghy deflating itself after 24 hours.
 
ThePointblank
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Re: French Rafale Ejection Incident March 20 2019

Mon Apr 20, 2020 10:40 pm

A fighter pilot talks about the incident, referencing the accident report:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-zIxqKwoHsM

This will help makes it more clearer for everyone, will some context that he fills in.
 
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AirlineCritic
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Re: French Rafale Ejection Incident March 20 2019

Wed Apr 22, 2020 12:10 pm

That was a great video!

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