The defense company executive was presented with the opportunity to ride in a fighter jet.
He had never expressed a desire to do such a thing but felt that it would be rude to reject such a generous gift from his colleagues.
A 64-year-old man in France received a surprise gift from co-workers that led to an even bigger surprise than intended.
So, on March 20, 2019, the unnamed man found himself strapped in the back of a two-seater Dassault Rafale B jet on a runway at the Saint-Dizier air base in the north-eastern region of France.
As the jet reached an altitude of 1,300 feet (4oo meters), the executive found himself experiencing negative g forces and rising out of his seat.
At this point, the man reached for something to steady himself. Unfortunately, the thing he grabbed was the ejection seat activation lever and he was fired from the jet.
Fortunately, the parachute attached to his seat worked as intended and he was deposited safely in a nearby field near the border with Germany. He was taken to a hospital following the harrowing experience.
Investigators released their report of the incident on April 6, 2020. They uncovered several errors with the flight including loose straps on the seat which allowed the man to float out of his seat.
They also took issue with the fact that medical warnings were ignored which indicated that the gentleman should not undergo the 3.7g of force generated by the plane on takeoff. There is also the small matter of the man’s helmet falling off during the ejection.
The medical warnings about his condition stemmed from an examination performed four hours prior to take-off. Such an exam typically takes place ten days prior to the flight.
A malfunction of the ejection system prevented the pilot from being ejected as well. He was able to safely land the plane even without his passenger or the cockpit canopy. The jet pilot is an experienced veteran pilot with over 20,000 hours of flight time.
The whole experience was stressful on the man from the beginning. According to data from his smart watch, his heart rate was between 136 to 142 beats per minute immediately before the flight.
He went through a safety training presentation which described the workings of the ejection system, though he was in a daze from the stress of the surprise gift and did not retain much from the session.
In spite of all of this, he was largely left to secure his own safety equipment.
The investigation concluded that the cause of the accident was the stress felt by the man and his inadvertent activation of the ejection system caused by his alarm at finding himself floating out of his seat.
They point to the large amount of information the man was expected to absorb in a short amount of time as a triggering factor in the incident.