Life-saving ejection seats...
SMBF ejection seats are fitted to numerous western fighter jets in service in over 30 countries. They have saved hundreds pilots lives.
A reconnaissance mission
A spring breeze was dancing across the 113 Saint-Dizier-Robinson Air Force Base in northeast France. This French Air Force base, which is home to two squadrons of Rafale fighter jets, is tasked with taking part in the Defense and national security strategic functions.
Captain Patrick, squadron major, is going out on a training mission.
He knows the day is going to be intense, with several reconnaissance exercises intended to photograph military objectives being on the agenda.
Securely harnessed and visor down, he begins taxiing, which will take him to the end of the runway for take-off. It is at this point he lifts the 21-ton multirole fighter jet with full tanks of fuel off the ground.
A thrill experienced by very few
The four kilometers of runway in front of him give him time to think about the movements to be performed. This is something he always does.
The control tower gives him the green light:
Fury 21, clear for take-off.
Brakes firmly on, he starts the afterburners of the two M88 engines while glancing at the dashboard instruments: everything is OK. As he releases the brakes, the fighter jet begins to accelerate quickly: 100, 150, 170 knots.
As it reaches one thousand feet, a flock of birds suddenly appears which captain Patrick does not have time to identify.
A loud bang rang out from both sides of the jet.
The pilot immediately understands: the birds were ingested into both jet engines. Several breakdown lights immediately light up on the dashboard: oil and engine overheating problems... while the smell of "grilled chicken" entered the cockpit. Realizing that he no long has control over his jet, captain Patrick tells the controller that he has to eject.
Oddly, he feels quite calm despite the urgency of the situation.
And probably because he has already practiced the maneuver several times using a flight simulator, his right hand clasps the seat ejection handle located between his legs and he pulls without thinking twice.
His life has been saved... in two seconds flat
Just after the handle has been pulled, the ejection seat, equipped with two rocket motors, propel the pilot through the cockpit, which has been shattered by detonating cords. For captain Patrick, it is quick and very violent affair: within half a second, he experiences an acceleration of 18 g.
He then hears an explosion as the drogue parachute is fired from the seat. While feeling a little bit groggy, pilot feels the main parachute open and the safety harnesses for his shoulders and legs release.
A total time of two seconds has elapsed from the moment he pulled the handle, and the seat, now detached from the pilot, plummets to the ground.
Acceleration experienced within half a second
As he floats down to the ground, he sees his plane crash into a field below him. The homing beacon switches on automatically, which means he will not need to use the life vest or raft included in the seat's personal survival pack.
Before touching the ground, he has just enough time to consider how lucky he was to have had a fully automated ejection system. The landing is a little rough, but captain Patrick gets up quickly, happy to be safe and in one piece.
His SMBF ejection seat just saved his life!
He can already hear the sound of a helicopter coming his way. In the distance, a plume of smoke provides him with the sad reminder that his Rafale is no more, but he knows that it is the only thing to do in such circumstances.
"Tie Club" members dotted worldwide
A few months later...
At the Paris Air Show, captain Patrick, who has had time to come to terms with things, is invited to attend a drinks reception by SMBF for its "Tie Club".
Every two years, the company brings together those pilots who survived thanks to the SMBF ejection seat.
Like the many pilots who went through this incredible experience before him, he became a member of this brotherhood, and received a club tie and medal, a tradition which was started by Sir James Martin, the founder of Martin Baker Aircraft company. To date, the "Tie Club" has around 7,000 members dotted across the world.