A 64-year-old man’s gift of a flight in a French military fighter jet ended with the man accidentally hitting the “Eject” button in a panic and being launched from the aircraft at 2,500 feet, CNN reports.
The comedy of errors that led to the incident began when the unidentified man’s employees gifted him a ride in a Dassault Rafale B jet with an experienced pilot. The fighter jets, which can achieve a speed of about 870 miles per hour, are used by the French military.
The man and his team showed up at the Saint-Dizier air base in northeastern France, where his employees had arranged for him to take the flight, even though the man had no military aviation experience and had never shown any interest in taking a ride in a fighter jet.
Even before climbing into the aircraft, data from the man’s smartwatch shows that he began to panic as soon as he realized what was happening.
“His heart was in full tachycardia,” said a report of the incident, noting that the man’s heartbeat had reached between 136 and 142 beats per minute.
Even though by this point he was in a blind panic, the man went ahead and got into the aircraft. Then, his pilot took off into the skies, accompanied by two other aircraft in a training exercise.
When the aircraft got to about 2,500 feet and the pilot began to climb, the civilian passenger began to furiously try to find something to hold on to. Unfortunately, what he found was the plane’s “Eject” button, when meant that the man was launched into the sky.
Authorities describing the incident were clear that the man didn’t deliberately eject himself from the craft, noting instead that it was all due to an “involuntary reflex.”
Making matters worse, the man had not properly secured his helmet, which flew off of his head, becoming a potentially deadly piece of debris that fell to the ground.
Fortunately, the man, who had never ejected from a flying aircraft before, landed safely in a field. He was taken to a nearby hospital as a precaution.
According to The Daily Mail, a “technical error” prevented the pilot from also being ejected. Had that happened, the results could have been catastrophic, as there would have been no one to safely land the aircraft.
The pilot suffered minor facial injuries in the ordeal. Nevertheless, he was able to land the plane safely.