‘Out of control, I reached for the “D” ejection handle between my legs. I grasped it but did not pull it, as I realized that being inverted the ejection would slam me into the dirt and I would die,’ John Chesire, former F-14 Tomcat pilot.
‘Right after takeoff in an F-14 and upon raising the flaps and slats, on one wing they came up and the other side they did not,’ remembers John Chesire, former US Navy F-14 Tomcat pilot, on Quora.
‘With now fully asymmetric flaps and slats I could not control the aircraft and rolled inverted, only a few hundred feet above the dirt.
‘Out of control, I reached for the “D” ejection handle between my legs. I grasped it but did not pull it, as I realized that being inverted the ejection would slam me into the dirt and I would die.
‘Pushing negative G stopped me from crashing. Also as my airspeed increased, I started to gain control of my wings and eventually made it roll, “right side up.”’
‘I did not immediately know what caused this. However I thought raising the flaps/slats might help. Unfortunately, when I moved the flap handle back up, nothing happened. They were still locked in position.
‘I thought I would have to still eject when I got over the water a couple of miles ahead, but I did not have to do so. Climbing to 15,000 feet, I became an ersatz test pilot, trying to see at what speed I could still maintain control. It was around 230 knots or so. Therefore I maintained 240 knots until I touched down on our 12,000-foot runway.
‘After revisiting this incident so many years later, I am now wondering if I should have let the aircraft roll all the way around, 360°.
‘Of course my natural instinct was to fight it. I had full opposite stick, full left rudder, and full asymmetrical thrust (‘burner in one engine and much less in the other) before I reached for the ejection handle. But by then I was inverted.’
‘Putting in all those extreme and opposite controls stopped the roll as intended, but they stopped the roll upside down and did nothing to roll back upright… until I gained more airspeed.’
Photo credit: U.S. Navy