ep 6: Darwin Awards

Each year, the Darwin Awards pay tribute to those individuals who “improve our gene pool–by removing themselves from it in the most spectacular way possible.” Named after Charles Darwin, the English biologist and the father of evolution theory, these awards are a testament to the dumb shit people do to precipitate their premature demise (or that of an appendage…or two). The Darwin Awards are certainly not lost on the military. I mean, what do you expect? You have the inherent danger of live munitions and operational machinery combined with a “hurry-up-and-wait” mindset that results in a population of bored GIs on some God-forsaken piece of real estate who have nothing better to do than turn to their buddy and say, “hey, watch this shit.” And, KABOOM!

In this podcast, we share some personal stories and lessons learned from the Darwin Award-worthy antics we observed throughout our military careers. Things like, benzocaine burns your eye; never park in front of a loaded F-16; jet intakes suck…A LOT; the GEICO squirrels are REAL; what goes up must come down; and evidently, there’s a fine line between “a shooting” and “a shooting in progress.”

Notes:

  1. Here’s a link to the Colorado Springs Gazette Telegraph article from the 1993 shooting at Jim & I’s Star Bar: https://newspaperarchive.com/colorado-springs-gazette-telegraph-apr-20-1993-p-11/
  2. The ‘Spicy Eyes’ reference: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0397892/
  3. Steve McQueen in ‘The Hunter’: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0080907/
  4. Here’s the account of the accidental ejection seat death. This was written by Brian Kidd, jet engine mechanic in the USAF, who spent 3 years as a Quality assurance (QA) inspector with the 561st fighter squadron at Nellis AFB, Nevada, from August 1992-95… Myself and a fellow QA inspector were performing a pre-flight inspection of an F-4G prior to a Functional Check Flight (FCF). A crew chief and his partner were changing a battery on another F-4 only two jets away from us. Now for those of you who remember the F-4 days, you know that a battery change on an F-4 is no easy task, requiring that the seat be in the lowest position, the rudder pedal being folded forward and the #7 circuit breaker panel being removed ( I know that this was not the case in the earlier versions of the F-4, when the rocket motor initiator was located under the seat, attached to a lanyard to the floor of the acft and required that the seat be removed. On the later versions of the seat, a TCTO moved the initiator to the left side of the seat, and the peso did not require removal from the cockpit) Anyway, the battery was inadvertently drained through the night, and the seat was in the up position. As you old timers will know, the F-4 will not accept external power with a dead battery. Egress was called to remove the peso, and the crew chief and his partner pressed on with the battery change. With some time and patience, the battery was R2’d and the crew chief wanted to now lower the seat to make the rest of the battery install go easier. Now for those of you who have not worked the “G” model F-4, the wiring harness to the #7 c/b panel was longer than usual due to the sex change from from “E” to “G” configuration. This allowed the #7 circuit breaker panel to be set on the floor of the acft, while still attached to the cannon plugs attached to it. While sitting in the seat, he had his assistant apply power to the jet with a -60 power unit and lower the seat . Little did he know that he was pinning the c/b panel between the bottom of the seat and the floor. The scene now is that he is sitting on a seat that is on top of a live panel, which then proceeds to torch a hole in the rocket motor package. Needless to say the seat fired after a hole was burned through the rocket motor. When this thing went it scared the wholly living shit out me and my partner. The first thing that we thought was that maybe EOD was blowing up some stuff somewhere on base ( that was a pretty common occurrence at Nellis ). We both looked up to see an ejection seat in the air with the drogue chute just starting to deploy. I thought to myself that I hoped to Christ that no one was in it. The seat was at least as high as the flood lights that light up the flightline of most Air Force bases, at least 100 ft. high. The seat and occupant both came down very rapidly, with the seat landing on the wing of the next acft, and the crew chief on the ground. I and my partner were the first ones on the scene, and after declaring a ground emergency to maintenance control, we realized that there was nothing to do except cordon off the area and wait for the ambulance to arrive. As we all know, almost all ejection seat accidents are always fatal, and this was no exception. The crew chief was killed in this accident. Then entire rear canopy was taken out and broken into several pieces. Once the area was cleared,and egress technicians were on the scene, we had realized what had happened. Prior to this, myself and my QA buddy along with other mechanics, were trying to figure out what had happened. The seat landed on the wing of the next acft. lying on its’ side, partially covered by the drogue chute. We counted all of the safety pins and the “D” ring guard was in the up “safe” position. How the hell did this thing go off? Anyway, the investigation had revealed that it was in fact the #7 circuit breaker panel that had burned a hole into the rocket motor pack that caused the seat to fire. I had always heard about ejection seat accidents, but never thought that I would be witness to one. It has really given me a new sense of respect for the ejection system, a system that most of us maintainers take for granted these days. I always do my “seat safe for cockpit entry” prior to getting into the cockpit of any acft.
  5. Here’s some video footage of the Navy crewman who was sucked into the intake of the A6 Intruder aircraft aboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt…and lived! Watch closely.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=unXNdrtf2_g
On February 20th of 1991, aboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt, Petty Officer JD Bridges is sucked into a jet engine of an A6 intruder. One of the things that saves him is his helmet.

Bonus: Here we see a young SrA Rash standing in front of the ‘Stealth Fighter’ static display at RAF Sculthorpe, UK.

Stealth Fighter

Stealth Fighter static display at RAF Sculthorpe

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