View Full Version : Accidental and fatal ejection over southern England

20th Jul 2005, 09:24
I'm hoping someone here can verify an example I have been using in a project management course relating to risk management in design and procedure.

I'm sure I recall a strange case of a pilotless military jet found heading west over southern England in level flight. The aircraft was intercepted and the lack of a pilot and canopy was confirmed. It was chased until it ran out of fuel and crashed in to the Atlantic.

This must have been 20 years ago.

After extensive testing, a particular scenario was found which could explain what had happened.

The pilot, being of a certain height and in that aircraft at that particular time of day and year, adjusted his seat and visor for the glare of the low sun. To do so, he had to move a map reading light which was on a stalk. The light fell out of its clip, and dropped down against the seat where it somehow fouled the ejector system. Operating the seat adjuster then fired the ejection system, and the poor guy was shot out into the slipstream without any warning. His body was later found on Salisbury Plain.

I have been using this story as an example in the context of the need to eliminate the chance of catastrophic consequences during routine procedures.

Has anyone heard of this incident? I'm not a military pilot, but I am wondering if an ejector seat system could be so simply fouled.

20th Jul 2005, 09:30
I can't remember the fine detail but I think that it was a Harrier GR5 on a test flight. The drogue cannon fired which dragged the seat and pilot out of the aircraft, unfortunately with tragic consequences. The pilotless airframe was 'intercepted' by a USAF aircraft (C5 or C141), the crew of which confirmed the status of the aircraft.

20th Jul 2005, 09:33
You will find more info here (http://www.pprune.org/forums/showthread.php?s=&threadid=177593&highlight=salisbury). Date would be late 1987, possibly November. I was at the home of Mike Snelling (Dunsfold CTP I recall) for dins that night and he came home a bit late. As someone said, Taylor Scott was a nice guy.

20th Jul 2005, 10:03
Thanks rej and BOAC. Sorry to bring up such a well-discussed topic.

It looks as though there have been several incidents. I'll trim the tale of the Harrier one to better reflect the facts and keep using it in my course - it's a very memorable story and ideal for my teaching purposes.

20th Jul 2005, 10:19
Think you're referring to a pre-production Harrier GR5, which was being flown by a BAe Test Pilot. Something to do with selecting manual separation instead of emergency oxygen or motoring the seat up / down and dislodging a sear as I recall. Don't know if cause was ever positively determined, but there have been many takes on what actually happened. Whatever, they reckon the seat drogue fired, the result being that the poor bloke was dragged out of the jet through his straps and canopy. Jet crashed into the Irish Sea I think.

Oggin Aviator
20th Jul 2005, 11:21
Concur with mrwickets above. Friend of mine was the god daughter of the tp involved and that is how she described the accident.

John Farley
20th Jul 2005, 11:54
Fully concur the last two posts.

The seat being at the bottom of deep sea was not recovered and contained the evidence needed to positively decide which of two main scenarios initiated the event.

As is so often the case much good flowed from the various findings and possibilities. So the loss of Taylor was not totally in vain but in my view it represented terrible value for money.

I recruited Taylor because I wanted to provide the Dunsfold SHAR development team with real current FAA expertise. He was not a graduate of ETPS - which is why he could be so current re operating (not just flying) from ships - but he wanted to test fly so much even I could taste it. In my view he did more through his work at Dunsfold - on the ground as well as in the air - to make the SHAR weapon system what it became than the rest of us put together.


20th Jul 2005, 13:38
Seem to remember a Tucano did a similar trick before it entered service....

...or did I dream it..?

20th Jul 2005, 15:10
Ah and then I recall a certain RED on the way to the RED capital with his favourite golf club on board which duly fired the MDC as he closed the canopy. Where is the spare aircraft ....lets GO! Anyone got the real gos on that one ??

Lon More
20th Jul 2005, 15:17
There were a couple in Europe some years ago.

One was a Lear Jet -departed Zurich and went R/F. When intercepted nobody was visible in the cockpit. It eventually crashed near Iceland.

A Mig (?) took off from somewhere in DDR, the pilot ejected for some reason and the a/c, escorted by F16s from Soesteberg, continued over W. Germany, Netherlands and Belgium before finally crashing near the French border, killing one on the ground

20th Jul 2005, 15:44
Seem to remember a Tucano did a similar trick before it entered service....

...or did I dream it..?

Or was it a Mirage ?

20th Jul 2005, 18:21
Lightning wit there, Yeller_Gait

trap one
20th Jul 2005, 18:25
The Lear I think was out of Austria had pressurisation Failure and didn't a Famous Golf player end up going the same way. Seem to remember reading that this model you had to turn the Oxy on pre flight and you couldn't get at the bottle once airborne.
The Mig was a 23 that the pilot had to eject from because it wasn't producing full power. Course as soon as Pilot and Bang seat left the airframe less power needed to maintain flight, so off it went.
Remember the Wildenrath battle flight and UK Q jets on stand by to intercept or getting A/B but the 23 as rightly pointed out ran out of gas in Belgium.
There was also a Harrier GR3 (Ejected from) that went the other way from Gutersloh and the Lightning Battle Flight was launched to go shoot it down but again it wemt down before being shot down.

20th Jul 2005, 18:42
Payne Stewart (http://www.airsafe.com/stewart.htm) was the famous golfer you're thinking of, trap one.

Ther was also an instance with a King Air from the UK that was undertaking an air test. From memory, the crew (2POB) donned masks and initiated a deliberate depressurisation whilst the aircraft was stabilised in a turn on AP. Unfortunately the masks were not connected to the O2 system and the turning aircraft then was blown into France, intercepted by the Armee de l'Air on the way, until it ran out of fuel. This must have been in the late 80s/early 90s, but I can't find the report on the AAIB site.

Rhys S. Negative
20th Jul 2005, 18:55
The subject of the original query was Harrier GR.Mk.5 ZD325, the 6th production aircraft. The accident happened on 22-Oct-87. I was a junior FTE at Dunsfold at the time.

I'm interested that mrwickets refers to

selecting manual separation instead of emergency oxygen

and John Farley to

two main scenarios

as it is generally the wander-lamp theory that is remembered, as in RJM's post.

I think it is noteworthy that the man sep and emer oxy handles on the Mk.12 seat are of similar shape, on opposite sides of the seat, whereas on earlier seats emergency oxygen was selected by pulling a knob or a ring-shaped handle; further, that the emergency oxygen gauge is on the opposite side of the seat to the operating handle, i.e. in close proximity to the man sep handle.

As I recall, a test of the emergency oxygen system was briefed for the fatal flight. Of course, there should be an interlock which would have prevented the manual separation handle from being pulled up by mistake while the seat was still in the aircraft, so this would need to have failed, but in my view this was as plausible as the wander-lamp explanation, and I believe contains lessons on ergonomics and man-machine interface design.

Agree with the sentiments expressed about Taylor - a top bloke.


20th Jul 2005, 19:27
Not wanting to sound like an Air Accident Report spotter, but I seem to recall that the cause was a loose item in the cockpit, and when the pilot motored his seat down it bent the rod connecting the MOR handle to the whatsit which activated gas in the other whatsit, which punted his drogue out of the canopy and pulled him out of the jet. Since then, all MB seats have had a cover over the connecting rod. Check out the gashly welded on cover next time you see a Tucano/Canberra/Jag etc seat out.

L Peacock
20th Jul 2005, 20:51
Rhys s neg

Is man-sep really inhibited on an un-ejected seat?
Didn't think it was. Just a ground safety sear pin, or the main seat pin in the case of Tornado.
Might be wrong.

Lon More
20th Jul 2005, 21:23
BossEyed I think the UK King Air was back in the 1970s. Strange parallel here (http://www.fire.org.uk/BBC_News/news/bbc050900a.htm) though

20th Jul 2005, 21:36
I think the man sep handle is locked until the main handle is pulled but that would not prevent an object contacting the man sep rod when the seat was motored down.
however, maybe the introduction of the safety feature of not being able to pull the man sep handle until the main handle had been pulled was introduced after this incident.


21st Jul 2005, 09:06
With the exception of the Tornado Type 10A, all modern (gas) MB seats have an interlock between seat pan handle mechanism & the man sep (i.e. the former needs to be pulled begore the latter will operate). Dare say interlock was designed in precisely as a precaution against inadvertant in-ac operation.

Why no interlock on Tornado? The compromises of the tri-national project. Neither is there a main gun safety pin on Tornado - and just one seat state - 'safe' - rather than the 'safe for parking' & 'safe for maintenance' pin positions on most other MB seats.

There were two theories after Dunsfold. The one already discussed was motoring the seat down onto a rogue wander lamp. The other was that the seat could have been mis-rigged in the bay prior to installation resulting in the man sep interlock being ineffective. Post accident, there was another less publicised mod in the front of the seat that removed the possibility of mis-rigging.

Significantly for a Harrier pilot, the relative (L&R) positions of the EO & mansep handles are transposed between the Type 9 seat in Harrier GR3 and the Type 12 in the then GR5. Thus the other theory was did Mr Taylor - with all due respect to a wonderful TP - who was programmed to pull the EO, and who also flew Harrier 1s, had a cognitive failure and operated the incorrect handle - with the interlock that should have saved him not working.

As the seat remains unrecoverable in the aircraft at the bottom of the Atlantic, the official report came down on the side of the wander lamp theory rather than mis-rigging plus cognitive failure (balance of probability stuff). However, there has always been much debate.

Not too many years later, an F3 mate nearly came to the same fate as Mr Taylor. Went for a (contingency) planned pull of his EO on recovery to Conz and possibly had a L/R cognitive failure. Man sep handle operated (remember no interlock on Tornado) & drogue followed by parachute (shredding) fired through the canopy. Fortunately, a confirmed error was that he had inadvertently looped his knee pad strap through the man sep handle prior to tightening it to his leg. Effectively, he had strapped himself to the seat via his knee pad, and that alone kept him in the aircraft - albeit with his head poking half out of the shattered canopy. With literally fingertip control of throttles and stick & no comms to anyone, he flew the last 15 miles or so to Conz (local knowledge). Nav had quickly sussed what had happened (couldn't eject because pilot's para rigging lines were across his canopy) and although pilot lost control at touch down (remains of parachute blossomed & yanked him further out of seat) it was a trainer ac, so nav kept it on runway & brought it to a halt!! Pilot had a very sore knee for a quite a few days. A very lucky man - with the horrific cosequences of one mistake being nullified by the consequences of a separate bizarre error.


21st Jul 2005, 10:23
RED on the way to the RED capital

Not quite, Leningrad & Kiev.

(Neither of which then had golf courses). :rolleyes: