French Rafale Jets Grounded After Passenger Was Accidentally Ejected From A Two-Seater Last Week Return To Flight

French Air Force two-seat Rafale. (Image credit: FAF)

It looks like the French Air Force has resumed flight operations for that part of the French Rafale fleet grounded after the recent incident.

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, 2019.

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 air base 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.

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 underway. This incident is the first of this kind on a Rafale.

About David Cenciotti
David Cenciotti is a journalist based in Rome, Italy. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviationist”, one of the world’s most famous and read military aviation blogs. Since 1996, he has written for major worldwide magazines, including Air Forces Monthly, Combat Aircraft, and many others, covering aviation, defense, war, industry, intelligence, crime and cyberwar. He has reported from the U.S., Europe, Australia and Syria, and flown several combat planes with different air forces. He is a former 2nd Lt. of the Italian Air Force, a private pilot and a graduate in Computer Engineering. He has written five books and contributed to many more ones.