A civilian passenger was accidentally ejected from a twin-seat Rafale B fighter jet as the aircraft was taking off.
The fighter jet was taking off from Saint-Dizier 113 air base for a training mission, on March 20, 2019. The pilot managed to land shortly after the incident. His hands were slightly injured by broken glass from the canopy.
The passenger, a man in his sixties, was hospitalized. His back was reportedly injured as he fell on the runway. He is now in a stable condition. “His health condition is not a cause for concern,” said Colonel Cyrille Duvivier, spokesman for the French Air Force.
The identity of the civilian passenger (who “does not belong to the [French] Ministry of Armed Forces”) was not publicly disclosed. Journalists or elected officials are often invited to take part in “observation” flights approved by the Minister, for information and communication purposes.
Several investigations, including one from the French investigation bureau for State aviation safety (BEA-E) and one from the Gendarmerie de l’Air, were opened. They will determine if the ejection seat was triggered voluntarily, involuntarily or following a malfunction.
The Rafale ejection seat, the Mk-F16F, is supplied by a joint venture between French company Safran, and the iconic ejection seat manufacturer Martin Baker.