French Air Force has Grounded Rafale Fighter Jets After Civilian Passenger Was Accidentally Ejected During Taking Off. Rafale fleet partially grounded pending a safety review
On March 21, 2019 Armée de l’air française Dassault Rafale navigator seriously injured after being ejected on takeoff
The grounding that involved part of the French Rafale fleet following the unexpected ejection of a civilian passenger from a two-seater was reportedly lifted on Mar. 28, 2017.
As already reported, a 64-year old civilian passenger ejected for unknown reasons from a French Air Force twin-seat Rafale B fighter jet as the aircraft was taking off from Saint-Dizier 113 airbase on Mar. 20, 2019.
The incident occurred at 13.52 LT as the aircraft was taking off for a training mission.
The pilot managed to land the aircraft with minor injuries to his hands (caused by the broken canopy).
According to several French outlets, as a consequence of the really unusual incident, part of the French Rafale fleet was grounded as a precautionary measure, while the incident was investigated.
The flight restriction involved only training activities: operational flights and test flights were not be affected by the grounding.
It’s not clear whether the partial safety grounding involved both single and twin-seat jets. Whatever, we still have no clue about what triggered the ejection: it might have been a voluntary ejection, an involuntary one or even a failure, even though modern ejection seats are extremely reliable and malfunctions are extremely rare.
The Rafale is equipped with the MkF16F ejection seat, designed by Martin Baker. It features two rocket motors giving a zero/zero (0 altitude and 0 speed) ejection capability, the first one is installed under the seat and the second one on the lateral side.
The three investigations, including one from the French investigation bureau for State aviation safety (BEA-E) and one from the Gendarmerie de l’Air, are still ongoing to determine if the ejection seat was triggered voluntarily, involuntarily or following a malfunction.
This incident is the first accidental ejection from a Rafale.