The tense story of the US Navy F-4 crew who had to eject while flying at high speed, low altitude over North Vietnam

US Naval Aviator recalls when a fellow F-4 Phantom II pilot had to eject because he ran out of fuel after he stayed in afterburner too long during ACM training

By Dario Leone
Aug 3 2022
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‘A guy who received his wings at the same time as I did, was in the F-4 training squadron with me. Being new to the aircraft, and especially one with an afterburner, he did a very dumb and costly thing.’ John Chesire, former US Navy F-4 Phantom II pilot.

The development of the General Electric J79 turbojet began in 1952 as a more powerful follow-up to the General Electric J47 turbojet. The engine generated a maximum of 17,000 pounds of thrust (-15 version) with the afterburner operating.

Fuel consumption was about 35-40 gallons per minute at full dry power, and the afterburner adds about 50 to that number.

The engine was used on the Convair B-58 Hustler, the first US bomber capable of maintaining speeds in excess of Mach 2. The J79 also was used by some fighters developed during the late 1950s. The two most famous examples are the Lockheed F-104 and McDonnell Douglas F-4, which were both capable of flying at Mach 2.

The twinjet, all-weather Phantom II, with top speeds more than twice that of sound, became one of the most versatile fighters ever built also thanks to the J79 engine.

VF-154 F-4J print
This print is available in multiple sizes from – CLICK HERE TO GET YOURS. F-4J Phantom II VF-154 Black Knights, NE100 / 158373 / 1972

John Chesire, former US Navy F-4 Phantom II pilot recalls on Quora;

‘A guy who received his wings at the same time as I did, was in the F-4 training squadron with me. Being new to the aircraft, and especially one with an afterburner, he did a very dumb and costly thing.

‘During some Air Combat Maneuvering (ACM) training off the coast of San Diego, he failed to monitor his fuel quantity. Being in afterburner too long, and burning fuel rapidly by massive bucket loads, he ran out of fuel, flamed out, and had to eject over water.

‘He was grounded for awhile as his record was reviewed. Eventually he was reinstated into flight status again.’

Chesire concludes;

‘His was a good lesson for the rest of us. I watched my fuel quantity while using afterburner thereafter, like a hawk.’

Photo credit: U.S. Navy

F-4 model
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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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  1. Wayne Bell says:

    And what was his Instructor RIO Doing? He should have lost his wings. I wouldn’t want that guy in my backseat. Especially coming aboard the Boat.

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