Kid killed in Navy ejection seat

Discussion in 'Flight Following' started by brien23, Dec 19, 2019.

  1. brien23

    brien23 Cleared for Takeoff

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    What year did this happen, can't find much on any search about it. Air Show at the old Willow Grove NAS in Pennsylvania when a kid was in a Navy S3 Viking Jet set as a ground display. They were allowing people time where you could get into the cockpit. A 7 year old kid was in one of the seats and activated the ejection mechanism and was killed after being ejected and landing on the nearby tarmac.
     
  2. Kenny Phillips

    Kenny Phillips En-Route

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    If something like that happened, it was a long time ago, and I've never heard anything about it, ever.
     
  3. eventualpilot

    eventualpilot Pre-Flight

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  4. Kenny Phillips

    Kenny Phillips En-Route

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  5. Velocity173

    Velocity173 Touchdown! Greaser!

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    At some point they started taping up the panel to the outside jettison handle at air shows as well. Think there was an incident where someone blew the canopy at a show.
     
    Last edited: Dec 19, 2019
  6. Pugs

    Pugs Cleared for Takeoff

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    Eventually we just disconnected all the external handle canopy jettison handles on the Prowler. Someone looked at the stats and realized it had never been used for the design purpose but had many instances of it being used by mistake, including by those that should know better. At $800K a set and very limited supply the canopies were not cheap.
     
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  7. steingar

    steingar Taxi to Parking

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    Yeah, long long time ago. 80's sounds about right. Actually, there have been billions of dollars worth of aircraft losses at airshows throughout the years. Probably the price of that kind of recruitment and publicity.
     
  8. 35 AoA

    35 AoA Pattern Altitude

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    Jeez. Never heard of this, but can't imagine the scenario happening today. I'm sure there are displays that will let kids have a sit, but never one I was part of. Closest I ever saw was at Miramar, when we would let business groups get up on some big ladder up to the cockpit and peer in.....at which point they would ask if the F/A-18 was retired or no longer "front line". Lol. No chance I would let a kid get into the seat, let alone touch anything.
     
  9. Tarheelpilot

    Tarheelpilot Final Approach PoA Supporter

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    I was able to sit in a-6,f-16, f-15, c-130 & kc-135 pilot seats as a kid going to Base open houses when I was growing up.

    it was friggin awesome. Something I’ll always remember. The army recruiter brought a Blackhawk out to my high school. They landed on the football field and gave kids that we’re old enough to enlist rides. That dude met his quota that month. Yeah. That was even more awesome.
     
  10. Initial Fix

    Initial Fix Line Up and Wait

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    I remember that. I lived about 5 miles from the base at the time. I’d forgotten it was early 80’s.
     
  11. Maxnr

    Maxnr Line Up and Wait

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    I took part in a fly-in/airshow a while back. There was C-7 Caribou parked next to us. Kids were climbing over, through it and hanging out the cockpit windows. All day. When it was time to leave, the crew hit the battery switch and engine fire extinguishing agent blew out of both cowlings. I wonder if they got a ferry permit to go home.
     
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  12. wilkersk

    wilkersk Pattern Altitude

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    July 4th 1980: https://news.google.com/newspapers?...AIBAJ&sjid=gucFAAAAIBAJ&pg=4108,1220581&hl=en
     
  13. k9medic

    k9medic Line Up and Wait

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    First time I sat in an F-15 I thought the same thing. If it wasn't for the fact that there were 5 of them getting ready to go out on a flight, I would have sworn it was going to the graveyard.

    Dang pilots had to fly by osmosis or something. If you touch a switch enough times you know where it is I guess. No need for a label.
     
  14. midwestpa24

    midwestpa24 En-Route

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    It was just several years ago an autistic kid started a Lifeflight helicopter that was on static display at the Mankato, MN airshow. A couple of people had minor injuries as a tent or two went flying from the rotorwash. It was said that the kid had been excited to see the helicopter up close and had been studying for weeks about it and how to fly one.
     
  15. Ghery

    Ghery Touchdown! Greaser!

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    IIRC, shortly after this picture was taken at Travis AFB in 1960 a kid hit the fuel dump switch and dumped a full load on the ramp. Sure glad it after that picture was taken.

    Yes, that was me in the picture. Sitting in the cockpit of an F-102.

    432   Ghery   Travis AFB   Armed Forces Day   May 1960.JPG
     
  16. Kevin Stanley

    Kevin Stanley Filing Flight Plan

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    Hi guys, I was just thinking about the Willow Grove Ejection seat accident & was trying to Google info about & found this thred I was there when it happened when I was a kid.. I remember it vividly!. I remember actually going inside of that plane (later i found out it was a Navy Viking S3 jet) and 2 people were trying to get me to sit in the pilot seat but I was too scared to and I did not. Thank God become some time later I heard a very loud explosion & saw something flying through the air & hit the ground. Then a helicopter started hovering overhead. This happened in 1980 or 81 possible on the 4th of July. I will also try to answer any questions if you would like.
     
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  17. Warlock

    Warlock Pattern Altitude

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    Not about kids, but unit sop was to remove the wing store ejection cartridges in our AH-1’s that did air shows and static displays, as it was common to allow kids and attractive females into the seats...fat old guys not so much...as an Airshow demo pilot it all ended after 9/11 but was on the way out prior to that...never remember having an open cockpit in an AH-64.
     
  18. sourdough44

    sourdough44 En-Route

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    Back in my day, ejection seats were always ‘safe’ed’ & ‘pinned’ when not setting up for a flight. I also can’t remember anyone going near or sitting in a ‘live seat’, late 80’s, early 90’s. Then there were levers to blow the canopy & whatnot, reasons for close supervision with anyone near.

    It’s just easier to leave the canopy closed, ‘there’s the jet your tax $$ bought’.
     
  19. James331

    James331 Ejection Handle Pulled

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  20. wilkersk

    wilkersk Pattern Altitude

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    Not just in your day. Seats pinned, wing stores Squibs pinned or removed, battery disconnected. My suspicion is that some in the Viking community got lax and started thinking the crew seats in the S-3 were like the furniture in a passenger jet.
     
  21. Pugs

    Pugs Cleared for Takeoff

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    With the "head knocker" lever pinned I can't imagine how it was missed but all it took was some visitor "liberating" a safety pin for the lower handle and then someone else pulling it an hour later.

    Our seats had 12 pins in them (11 in the back) , all connected via a banner - hard to miss and they all had to be out for the seat to function.
     
  22. bflynn

    bflynn Final Approach

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    What's the rule? Always assume it's loaded?
     
  23. sourdough44

    sourdough44 En-Route

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    That helo start was kinda interesting.
     
  24. smv

    smv Pattern Altitude

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    Apparently it was not all that difficult to bypass all those safety systems.

    19 Aug 1997 on the USS Stennis. We were doing night quals to certify the flightdeck during Builder's Trials. An F-14 Tomcat trapped and the pilot's ejection seat immediately fired him THROUGH the canopy leaving the RIO flashbind and completely unaware what just happened. Meanwhile, the RIO has NO idea why the pliot left the airplane. He is scared to death to pull his lever because he doesn't know if he will go through the canopy as well AND he cannot reach the throttle. There it sits, on the wire at full afterburner and nobody knows what to do. They tried drowning the engines with the firemain and all they did was make steam. They ended up strapping an Airman into a harness and lowering him through the hole in the canopy to pull back the throttle. The pilot was picked up by the lifeguard ship and suffered cuts and bruises but was otherwise unhurt. Grumman swore up and down that what happened was impossible because there is a sequence of events (canopy pops, back seat fires, front seat fires) and the pilot WILL NOT get shot through the canopy, let alone leave the RIO behind. They flew out a couple of engineers and finally figured out what happened. The RIO had an unauthorized personal handheld GPS strapped in the back seat. When they trapped, the GPS broke free and hit the firing pin on the pilot's ejection seat tossing the pilot through the canopy.

    I have to believe they changed the design of that system after that. At the very least more heavily enforced the UA equipment rule.
     
  25. Fearless Tower

    Fearless Tower Touchdown! Greaser!

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    Then was the time when a Cruiser CO on a fam ride ejected himself from a Tomcat leaving the pilot behind.
     
  26. Jon Gunther

    Jon Gunther Pre-Flight

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    I was at an Airshow with the E-3 a couple years ago and we had a 6 year old blow the emergency pneumatic brake on us. Bad part was we had people in the cockpit watching the kid and were not able to stop it in time. Something about red handles that draw attention
     
  27. Velocity173

    Velocity173 Touchdown! Greaser!

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    Probably had an old Garmin GPS12. They were popular at the time. We got issued a bunch of them. Bringing portable GPSs on military aircraft was / is common.


    CCEBE3C1-18D8-4ECD-8870-CEDAEE8FA37A.jpeg
     
  28. smv

    smv Pattern Altitude

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    Was watching a show on the U-2 and the pilot had a GPSMAP 496 strapped with rubber bands to a MIL-STD mount of some kind. That was pretty entertaining, to say the least... ;)
     
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  29. Midnightscorpion

    Midnightscorpion Filing Flight Plan

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    This happened in 1980 on the July 4th weekend, i was 5 years old and unfortunately i was right there where it happened, we were under the fuselage of the plane after just having sat in the pilots seat, the explosion happened ( we physically saw the fireball and seat go up ) the canopy never blew off the seat essentially went through it . My father grabbed me up and carried me like a sack of potatoes while he had my sister grab his belt loop ( without shoes no less ) and he ran like he was back in vietnam I’m floored to actually see this post because not only did that happen that day but I ended up with 3rd degree sunburn and sun poisoning. So all around not a day that i have or will ever forget. The little boy was seen by my sister because we were at the end of the tour so literally him and his brother were right behind us in line to get in the plane pilots seat.my father had gotten tickets for the event from the tobyhanna army depot where he worked, it was the 4th of July weekend and it was extremely hot out that weekend i have tons of memories from that day and truly an incredible story of surviving the blast. I was extremely sad to learn the boy died I have never forgotten him
     
  30. 35 AoA

    35 AoA Pattern Altitude

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    Pilot of that jet was a skipper in my first airwing (years after the event).
     
  31. Jeff767

    Jeff767 Line Up and Wait

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    A student RIO ejected himself from a Miramar F14 at very high speed. He was never found. Seat bent the rails and clipped the tails. It was a milkbowl day out over the water and it’s believed he miss read the altimeter and ejected when they passed through 10,000 feet and a call was made on the radio to check the deck.
     
  32. Matthew

    Matthew Touchdown! Greaser!

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    Wow.

    Welcome to POA.
     
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  33. Midnightscorpion

    Midnightscorpion Filing Flight Plan

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    Thank you . Glad to be here
     
  34. ktup-flyer

    ktup-flyer En-Route

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    From an LA Times article, "At an air show on July 4, 1981, visitors were allowed to climb into the cockpit of an S-3 Viking patrol aircraft on ground display at the Naval Air Station-Willow Grove, Pa. The Navy had failed to disarm the ejection seat in the jet and a 7-year-old boy, John Pigford Jr., activated the rocket-controlled seat, ejecting himself through the aircraft canopy. He died two days later of a skull fracture and internal injuries. His brother, who was in the cockpit at the same time, survived with facial burns. Twenty-one others were injured in the incident."
     
  35. L.C. Gray

    L.C. Gray Pre-Flight

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    I've been working with and around egress systems for 15 years and still aren't completely comfortable with the idea of working in a confined space you're sharing with 2 lbs of explosives and solid rocket propellant...….I'm extremely careful and wary that all points in the system are safed, pinned and locked before entering the cockpit.
     
  36. Velocity173

    Velocity173 Touchdown! Greaser!

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    Lol! “Fat old guys.” We did the same thing I guess. In this pic we had a bunch of French kids rotating out of the cockpit. Gave my crew chief grief for letting the kids wear my helmet. Good thing I didn’t get head lice! :D

    We always had squibs installed but we also had the racks locked. WOW switch would (theoretically) prevent jettison as well.

    34FC6CEE-7EB0-4CCF-AF29-57ECF025690E.jpeg
     
  37. Tools

    Tools Cleared for Takeoff

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    So there I was.... Cross country from San Diego to Kansas City air show, and visit my parents. They ask to park the S3 as a static display, would we mind standing by it during the show to answer questions. No problem.

    This was 1995ish, standard procedure was to TAPE THE WHOLE DOOR SHUT ESPECIALLY THE LATCH. Took nearly a whole roll of ordinance speed tape (mil spec duct tape).

    Since my parents were there, I was a little late, Mark (Senso) said he’d get there on time and cover me... cool. I show up, he’s there answering questions, but is kinda pale and pulls me aside.

    Background, unlike the ESCAPAC seat in the A4, we did not pin the head knocker in the S3. Just didn’t. We never allowed ANYONE inside the jet who wasn’t qualified. No big deal...

    Hey Tools, says Mark... I got here on time, but apparently they opened the gates significantly earlier, because when I showed up, there was a significant line of people helping themselves to a tour INSIDE OUR JET!!!!!

    Yep, someone pulled all the tape off, and opened her up and in they went.

    We all knew about the 1980 thing, this was a big deal. I had some serious words with the air show folks about it. SCARY. FWIW, no one armed the seats. Still... they were sitting in them getting pictures.

    Tools
     
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  38. Velocity173

    Velocity173 Touchdown! Greaser!

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    These guys taped the jettison door as well. That seems to be SOP at air shows these days.

    638DB609-C8F9-4A83-A7AE-BB128E1E4862.jpeg
     
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  39. Tools

    Tools Cleared for Takeoff

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    Oh wow. Look at the helmet in the PIC seat, gotta be one of my squadron mates. I’m guessing that’s a VS-41 (training squadron) bird.

    I was in VS-35 when we switched to that version (read plagiarized Cheetos cartoon character) of a “Blue Wolf”. The squadron went away not too long after I left, I think...

    Tools
     
  40. James Hughes

    James Hughes Filing Flight Plan

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    Just joined this site. I was there in 1980 also. I was a 19 year old former PR from the nearby NADC Warminster Naval Air Warfare Center. I served there for 4 yrs and got out in march 1979. I stayed in the area and tried out the local job market until August 1980, when I reenlisted. I was a Naval Aviation nut and frequently volunteered to host tours for boy and cub scouts and local media and civilian contractors. Warminster was only a 15 minute bicycle ride from Willow Grove NAS. I tried to catch every air show I could and enjoyed every one. On July 4, 1980 I rode my bicycle to NAS Willow Grove for the show. I saw the S-3 involved in the accident and was no more than 50 yards from it when it happened. It was HOT, it was HUMID. I rode past the S-3 and and noticed the stairs and the people lined up for a cockpit view. The stairs were on the starboard side of the S-3. There were people under the port side of the S-3 who were sheltering from the heat under the shade of the wing. There was a big boom and I instantly pivoted back to the sound. I saw a 28 foot flat parachute canopy floating in the breeze above the S-3. My first thought was where is that seat! I reached the S-3 and I saw a young woman under the port wing in a lawn chair with a stunned look on her face. I spun around and saw something on the tarmac (ramp). I didn't see him land but I was the first person to get to him. I will never forget that sight. It was soo surreal. I don't want to get graphic on my first post but I can give you graphic details of what I saw on that day.
     
    Last edited: May 16, 2022