Aircraft Accidents and Ejection Seats

I have felt that the one heroic thing that is often missed in this world of safety is when a true hero places their life second to the innocents they put first. The idea that one can survive a disaster … only if; it puts a new perspective on the term ‘unselfish’. There have been many Herculean efforts of pilots the world over who, when faced with the thought of self-elimination versus self-centered, chose the former. Whether it was a fighter pilot who delayed ejection past the point-of-no return to steer his/her fighter jet away from a neighborhood; or perhaps a private pilot who chose to hit the trees instead of the highway when noticing a minivan in his way, oblivious to his danger.
Recently someone had commented on how ‘we need to come up with a way for helicopter pilots to better eject from their flight cabins’. The troubling concept idea of this is not that we shouldn’t exhaust efforts to save all lives, but there are times when saving the pilot is next to impossible; if the pilot can be saved, perhaps he/she will choose to save the innocents below.
When we think of an aircraft heading to the scene of the accident, we think fixed wing. That’s right, it has that glide ratio – too short at minimum; exaggerated, at best. It however does give a fixed wing aircraft some extra time, dependent on altitude. With enough forward momentum, a fixed wing aircraft can turn, circle, or dive to build up speed.
If you believe the James Bond film: Goldeneye, there is a helicopter that ejects the main rotors before the cockpit is jet-powered away from the helicopter’s fuselage. The death toll would be significant as the rotors would spin away at great speeds every which way and the fuselage would crush anyone in the way of its descent.
However, the same rules that apply to a jet fighter do not apply to a helicopter; every helicopter pilot knows and understands that their craft is a rock. The pilot can autorotate, a procedure that sacrifices altitude for the energy necessary to keep the rotor turning at a speed that keeps the craft aloft.
But to do this, the pilot must man the controls … all the way to the ground. And what will the pilot find below him on the way to the ground? A neighborhood? A city street? Unlevel hilly ground? It is possible that the only thing between a playground full of children and certain death is the helicopter pilot. Whether it is to prevent dropping a silent helicopter on top of the children or that the hills in question will shatter the main and tail rotors, sending the separated blades going everywhere. Someone has to maintain control.
And that’s what we need to remember the pilot for: the decision to stay, even when it means certain death. Because even if the pilot could escape, I like to believe they would choose to stay. That decision should be honored and appreciated for the selfless act it is.

One thought on “Aircraft Accidents and Ejection Seats”

  1. First priority should always be to fly the aircraft. Then, if all else fails – abandon ship. Tricky slope though for sure.

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