‘A cold winter day off Okinawa, I had an augmenter burn through. My wingman confirmed I was still on fire, and dropping burning titanium,’ Shari Williams, USAF F-15 Eagle pilot.
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.
What is the appropriate moment for a fighter pilot to eject?
Former F-15 pilot with the USAF Shari Williams explains on Quora:
‘Our -1 (aircraft manual) said “if fire is confirmed-eject”, regarding an inflight fire.
‘A cold winter day off Okinawa, I had an augmenter burn through. As I turned toward home my wingman confirmed I was still on fire, and dropping burning titanium. I tightened my straps, put my tape in my g-suit pocket, removed my pen from my pocket and got ready to eject.
‘As I looked down at the cold gray water which was pretty choppy, I had second thoughts.
‘I was 100miles from the island. Every minute I stayed in the plane was 5 minutes quicker the rescue helo would be on scene. I flew along for the longest 5 minutes with one hand on the stick and the other in the ejection handle. Finally, my wingman reported I was no longer burning. I was able to land back at base.’
‘Did I break the rules? Yes. But it was my butt on the line. No one ever said a word to me about it.’
Photo credit: Military Aviation Channel on YouTube