In 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.
But what does it feel like to eject from a jet aircraft?
‘To make a long story short, I was flying a T-33, with a chaff dispenser, at 30,000 ft. over the Pacific, near the Olympic National Park, when the engine suddenly flamed out. I was not able to get it restarted. (We later discovered from the wreckage an electrical short had caused to main fuel shutoff valve to close.)
‘At the time, I was about 90 miles offshore. I did not want to bail out over the water because it was May and the water was very cold! I decided to try to glide to shore, which I just barely did. As I glided over the shoreline at about 1000 ft., I tried to find a good area to punch out. When the plane reached 500 ft., I pulled the arm rest UP and the canopy blew off. I will never forget this: With my fingers on the ejection lever I said to myself, “You can get hurt doing things like this!”
‘I made sure everything was tight and I was sitting properly, then … BOOM … out I went. (The T-33 used the “brute force” ejection seat. It was powered by a charge similar to a 40mm cannon shell.)
‘My only injury was a slightly bruised left arm. I assume this was because I did not have my arm held in close enough and it hit the canopy rail during ejection.’
‘I remember the seat separating and a little tumbling, then the chute opened. You ask: Was the opening shock significant? Who knows … it was a great feeling, believe me!
‘I watched as the aircraft pitched up, then stalled, nosed down and disappeared into the dense forest. There was no fire and no explosion.’
Photo credit: Royal Canadian Air Force
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