A 64-year-old civilian panicked and accidentally launched himself out of a fighter jet while it was travelling at more than 500 kilometres per hour last year, according to an incident report compiled by French aviation officials, reports Global News.
The man was not properly strapped in, and he mistakenly grabbed the ejection handle to avoid floating out of his seat during takeoff, the report said.
The unidentified man was an executive at a defence company, and he’d never expressed any interest in flying, according to the report.
Nevertheless, his colleagues pulled a few strings and managed to surprise him with a ride in a two-seat Dassault Rafale B jet back on March 20th 2019, according to the report.
The 64-year-old’s heart was pounding at between 120 and 145 beats per minute before takeoff, but he went ahead with the ride anyway because he didn’t want to refuse the gift, investigators said. They pulled the heart rate reading off a smartwatch he was wearing at the time.
The plane took off from Saint-Dizier airbase in northeastern France and started climbing, subjecting the military pilot and the passenger to up to 3.7 times the regular force of gravity — more force than the passenger was medically cleared to endure, the report found.
The intense force lasted for only a few seconds, then the aircraft’s occupants suddenly felt lighter than gravity. The passenger started to float out of his seat because his straps were too loose, so grabbed for something to steady himself, the report found.