F-16 Pilot Ejects at Osan Air Base

An F-16 pilot at Osan Air Base, Korea, has reportedly ejected just prior to landing.  The pilot is described as “safe,” while the plane, which “had nearly touched down” at the time of ejection, “did not catch fire and remained structurally intact.”

It will likely be at least a month before the initial reports are completed on the mishap.

The F-16, like most advanced fighters, is equipped with a “zero/zero” ejection seat (the ACES II, in most American ejection seat aircraft). This means at zero feet above ground and zero knots (that is, parked on the ground), the pilot can safely eject.  Generally he gets “one swing in the chute” before hitting the ground, an impact that is uncomfortable but survivable.  While several aircraft share the basic ejection seat (including the B-1 and B-2), this seat is not universal equipment; for example, the Air Force’s primary jet trainer, the T-38, has a 0/50 seat, meaning at 0 altitude, the T-38 requires 50 knots of forward speed in order to give the pilot a safe ejection.  Both seats assume a level attitude (not in a bank or upside down).

Ejecting outside of the seat’s parameters (an “out of the envelope ejection”) significantly reduces the pilot’s chances of survival.  On the other hand, survival rates of in-the-envelope ejections are high; of the approximately 5,000 ACES II ejections as of 2005, the success rate was greater than 99%.  The F-16 ejection survival rate for in-the-envelope ejections has reported to be 100%.

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