03 November 2007

Successful Ejection from an F-16 Thunderbird Aircraft

On 14 September 2003, during an air show at Mountain Home AFB, Idaho, USAF Thunderbird pilot Captain Chris Strickland successfully ejected from his F-16C shortly before it crashed. According to the accident investigation board report, the pilot had been executing a "Split S" maneuver and had misinterpreted the altitude required to complete the maneuver. He made his calculation with an incorrect airfield altitude. The pilot incorrectly climbed to 1,670 feet above ground level instead of 2,500 feet before initiating the pull down to the Split S maneuver.

When he realized something was wrong, the pilot used maximum back stick pressure and rolled slightly left to ensure the aircraft would hit away from the crowd should he have to eject. He ejected when the aircraft was 140 feet above ground -- just eight-tenths of a second before impact. He sustained only minor injuries from the ejection. The aircraft, valued at about $20.4 million, was destroyed. There was no other damage to military or civilian property. The entire flight lasted approximately 25 seconds.

The video that was produced by Glenn Pew has a number of views of the event, including footage from a cockpit camera.

The still photo below was taken by Staff Sargent Bennie J. Davis III, a USAF photographer who was on the observation deck of the control tower. In my opinion, this is without question the finest photo of an aircraft ejection ever taken, and one of my all time favorite aviation photos I have ever seen.

Analysis of ejection sequence

Executive Summary of the Accident Report

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