Here’s why USAF F-4 Crew Members who Ejected two times from a Phantom II were Grounded and Never Flew an F-4 Again

Here’s why USAF F-4 Crew Members who Ejected two times from a Phantom II were Grounded and Never Flew an F-4 Again

By Dario Leone
Jan 9 2022
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Special punishment for USAF F-4 crew members who eject a second time from a Phantom II.

In a military aircraft, an ejection seat is a system designed to rescue the pilot or other crew of an aircraft in an emergency. In most designs, the aircraft canopy comes off and the seat is propelled out of the aircraft by an explosive charge or rocket motor, carrying the pilot with it. Once clear of the aircraft, the ejection seat deploys a parachute. In two seat aircraft, the seats are ejected at different angles to avoid a collision.

Before ejection seats, pilots would have to remove the aircraft canopy manually to climb and jump out.

Ejection seats can save lives.

Does a military pilot get some kind of punishment if he ejects from a plane?

F-4 model
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David Ecale, who served in the US Air Force, explains on Quora;

‘For F-4 pilots who eject a second time from an F-4, there is a very special punishment:


‘Who gives them this punishment? Their boss? Nope! The Board of Inquiry? Nope! The Flight Surgeon? Yup!

‘You see, ejection from an F-4 permanently compresses your spine. Two times & you’re done! (Note the profile of the WSO [the photo depicts a US Navy Phantom II hence the backseater was called RIO] in this picture. That’s some serious acceleration. You can actually see the compression in action.)

Here’s why USAF F-4 Crew Members who Ejected two times from a Phantom II were Grounded and Never Flew an F-4 Again

‘WSOs get grounded, too!

‘I was at Luke AFB when the Base Commander ejected. I watched him get wheeled into the Hospital ER on a gurney. … It was his second F-4 bailout.’

Not so for US Navy F-4 crew members

By contrast there was not a two-ejection limit for US Navy Phantom II crews as explains John Chesire, former F-4 and F-14 Tomcat pilot;

‘While the two-ejection limit was true for the Air Force, it was not true for the US Navy. I once knew and flew with a Navy RIO who had five ejections. Only the first four were successful. (Lt. David J. “Goose” Lortscher. His callsign Goose later became the RIO character’s callsign in the movie, Top Gun.)’

Photo credit: U.S. Navy

VF-31 F-4 Print
This print is available in multiple sizes from – CLICK HERE TO GET YOURS. F-4J Phantom II VF-31 Tomcatters, AC106 / 157307 / Mig Kill – 1972

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Dario Leone

Dario Leone

Dario Leone is an aviation, defense and military writer. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviation Geek Club” one of the world’s most read military aviation blogs. His writing has appeared in The National Interest and other news media. He has reported from Europe and flown Super Puma and Cougar helicopters with the Swiss Air Force.

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