04 December, 2020

Cheating The Reaper: Perils, And Process, Of Ejecting From Failing Aircraft

The perils, and process, of ejecting from a failing aircraft, as the g-force tears at a pilot’s body and the minus temperature plunges its icy talons into him

At the crash site of an aircraft of the IAF’s Surya Kiran team
Photograph by PTI
Cheating The Reaper: Perils, And Process, Of Ejecting From Failing Aircraft

At a time of aerial skirmishes across the Loc, as claims and den­ials rend the air, it’s relevant to look at a hazardous eventuality that the professio­nal combat pilot may face. An aviator like Aman Nautiyal, for instance. When seven failures hit Nautiyal in a single sortie, within a matter of two minutes and forty seconds, his brain did not get cluttered. “It actually started working more efficiently,” says the former Indian Air Force fighter pilot, “ensuring that I took the requi­red act­ions correctly.” At that speed, those couple of minutes were long—Nautiyal says he absorbed so much of what was going on inside the cockpit that he could describe it for hours later.

But fire is a different proposition altogether. A quick glance at the rear-view and he saw that the entire aircraft was on fire, just a metre behind the cockpit. “Eject! Eject! Eject! came as naturally to me as a fish takes to water, with an inherent desire to curl up in the pre-birth womb posture,” Nautiyal tells Outlook, recalling an...



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