News | March 23, 2023

Grampaw Pettibone

By Grampaw Pettibone

Gramps from Yesteryear: January-February 2003

During rollout following an arrested landing, the pilot of an F-14B Tomcat experienced an uncommanded ejection through the canopy. The radar intercept officer’s (RIO) seat did not fire. The pilot was rescued from the water by a search and rescue helo. Both aviators sustained first aid injuries.

During the start-up prior to the flight, the RIO was unable to initiate normal carrier alignment of the inertial navigation system and elected to perform a ground alignment. He strapped a hand-held global positioning system (GPS) receiver in a cloth holder to the digital data display (DDD) handle to verify the ship’s latitude and longitude and to provide accurate navigation data. The GPS remained strapped to the DDD handle throughout the flight.

During the arrested landing deceleration, the handheld GPS became dislodged from its holder on the DDD handle and struck and displaced the pilot’s ejection seat firing mechanism. Thus, the pilot’s ejection seat fired through the canopy, bypassing both the canopy jettison and the RIO’s seat ejection initiation sequence.