Navigator Ejects Halfway Out The Plane, But Pilot Figured Out How To Save Him
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Thanks To The Pilots Forethought And Skill, He Managed To Save His Partner
This is both a story of really bad luck coupled with extremely important decisions made in a very short period of time. While Lt. Mark Baden and Lt. Keith Gallagher were flying their A-6 Intruder during a routine mission in July, 1991, tragedy struck before anyone knew what happened. While pulling negative Gs when coming down, the rear part of the canopy cracked and half ejected; Lt. Gallagher from the plane. Held only by his parachute straps, he was pinned against his seat in the wind blast unable to breathe.
“Pain, confusion, panic, fear and denial surged through my brain and body as a new development occurred to me: I couldn’t breathe.” -Lt. Keith Gallagher
Trying to pull his ejection handle, he realized that his seat was not going anywhere. He struggled in his helpless position until he lost consciousness. Pilot Lt. Baden, realizing what happened, assessed the situation quickly. He lowered the speed of the aircraft near stall speed and within 6 minutes was lining up to land on the USS Abraham Lincoln. Making sure he caught the first wire as slowly as possible he also managed to pull the front gear up to make sure his partner didn’t get impaled on the broken canopy.
In the end, what caused this accident was the stress on the plexiglass of the canopy and the ejection seat being faulty. The stress of the canopy made it crack, sliding the ejection seat partially out and deploying Gallagher’s parachute which pulled him out.