French Fighter Jet Joy Ride Goes Très, Très Wrong

  • A French defense-industry employee about to retire was gifted something he was extremely reluctant to accept: a ride in a Dassault fighter jet.
  • The 64-year-old was not correctly instructed, to say the least, in passenger etiquette, and to make a long story short, he self-ejected midflight.
  •  He’s okay, according to the government’s incident report, but the chance of this gentleman ever repeating the stunt is definitely zero.

Imagine: You work hard your whole life in the French defense industry, and when it’s time to retire, your co-workers want to give you something more memorable than a gold watch or a set of golf clubs. So they set up a coveted back-seat ride in a Dassault Rafale B fighter jet, the kind of perk that requires serious connections.

Just one problem: nobody asked one particular 64-year-old civilian whether he ever wanted such a ride, or showed him much about what to expect. Next thing you know, the French Investigation Bureau for State Aviation Safety (BEA-E) is issuing a report explaining how Monsieur Newbie came to experience not only the Dassault, but also its Martin-Baker MK16 ejection seat.

Well, mistakes were made. Lots of them. Since this treat was to be a surprise, the recipient didn’t get much of a briefing on what to expect. His g-suit pants weren’t on correctly, his seat harness wasn’t tight, and his helmet—and oxygen mask—were unbuckled as the plane taxied to the runway at Saint-Dizier 113 air base. He was so nervous that his heartbeat was around 140 beats per minute just from climbing into the plane. Our reluctant Goose did get medical clearance from a doctor, but only four hours before the flight, and with an important stipulation: no negative g’s. The way the rest of this was unfolding, do you want to guess whether there were negative g’s? Mais oui.