The privileged experience of a fly-along in a French Air Force Rafale B fighter jet went terribly wrong last month for one civilian who was shockingly ejected from the jet during a takeoff from Saint Dizier Air Base in northeastern France.
The unidentified 64-year-old passenger, who “does not belong to the [French] Ministry of Armed Forces,” sustained back injuries but was listed in stable condition after being taken to the hospital, according to Aerotime News Hub.
“His health condition is not a cause for concern,” Col. Cyrille Duvivier, spokesman for the French Air Force, told Aerotime News.
In many cases, fly-along opportunities are extended to elected officials or those in the press to highlight capabilities of the aircraft, according to reports.
But aviation experts agree randomly firing passengers into the sky is typically not one of those capabilities.
Multiple investigations into the March 21 incident were immediately opened to determine exactly what went awry, and France subsequently suspended all training flights for its fleet of Rafale jets.
That suspension, which didn’t affect operational flights, was lifted March 28, according to the Aviationist.
Prior to the flight, the passenger was likely to have received a detailed briefing on all operational procedures, according to David Cenciotti of the Aviationist.
“You are clearly explained what to touch and what you should not touch in the cockpit," Cenciotti wrote. "The ejection seat handle is one of those things you should be aware of.”
Aerotime News echoed those sentiments, albeit bluntly, noting that the civilian’s injuries “can be attributed to a lack of preparation."
How one is supposed to prepare for being surprisingly catapulted into the air is unknown.
It remains unclear whether the error was the result of the passenger touching a “do not touch” apparatus, or if the jet simply found his company less than preferable and said “au revoir” to its guest.
Wherever the fault lies, nightmares ensued, and “Top Gun” fans everywhere were forced once more to relive the grim fate of Goose.
Great balls of fire.
The pilot, meanwhile, sustained minor injuries to his hands after the unscheduled ejection broke the canopy glass, but was able to land the aircraft shortly after the ejection.
Jon Simkins is a writer and editor for Military Times, and a USMC veteran.