USS Forrestal question

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I have the greatest respect for the people who serve in the military and do not wish to second guess any of their decisions. These are brave and devoted good people. USS Forrestal fire July 1967, why did the pilots in the jets that were engulfed in flames on the deck not eject?
 
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Were they equipped with 0-0 ejection seats? Older seats have minimum height and speed requirements. Another thing. With fire raging outside the plane it may not be good idea to eject with parachute that may catch it. Krzys
 

Astro14

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They were zero-zero. But ejection isn't simple. Nor is it safe. It ruins the airplane. You risk spinal compression/injury from the ejection itself. You end up a few feet above a fire with no ability to steer, and about to be entangled in lines, and smothered by thirty feet of flammable material, and a very likely injury from contact with the deck or another airplane. They're not like sport parachutes. You hit the ground HARD. I should add that hitting the water by the stern isn't good, either. Chutes have been pulled under by the screws. Far better to evacuate the airplane. Those who evacuated, lived.
 
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Some info I found:
Quote
Their planes were equipped with ejection seats that could fire while the plane was sitting still, but apparently none of the trapped pilots tried that escape option. Ejecting from a plane is always a last resort, extremely violent and risky, and the Forrestal's situation introduced new hazards that made ejecting even less desirable. The pilot could have floated down right into the fire, and landing out in the water was never a good idea. And why eject if you could just jump out of the plane or wait mere seconds for the firefighters to rescue you? In the end, it became clear that the aviators who made it out of their planes safely were the ones who scrambled out as soon as they saw the fire; even a slight hesitation might have cost some pilots their lives. Those who survived wondered for years if the dead aviators might have been spared by a quick decision to eject, but they also understood why they decided against it.
Source: https://epdf.tips/sailors-to-the-en...-forrestal-and-the-heroes-who-fough.html
 

pbm

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My cousins husband was an 18 year old sailor on the Forrestal that day....fortunately he survived unharmed but he never had any desire to be a firefighter after that. Some people say that John McCain's aircraft initiated the whole thing which killed 134 sailors and injured another 161 but the 'official findings' don't make that claim......of course McCain's father was the Admiral in charge of the Pacific at the time......
 
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Astro14

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Originally Posted by pbm
Some people say that John McCain's aircraft initiated the whole thing which killed 134 sailors and injured another 161 but the 'official findings' don't make that claim......of course McCain's father was the Admiral in charge of the Pacific at the time......
Conspiracy theory nonsense, spun by those with political motivation. An insult to both the man and the US Navy. The Zuni* from an F-4 across the deck HIT McCain's aircraft and/or that of his wingman. Not clear which, but it exploded on impact with the A-4 drop tank and started the fire. After evacuating from his A-4, McCain rushed in to help fight the fire, despite a lack of formal training, and lack of protective gear. He was wounded by an exploding bomb and frankly, deserved a medal for his heroism. *SOP at the time had the Zunis wired up when the airplane was on the catapult. All forward firing ordnance was treated that way, so that if there was an electric fault, it would fire off the front end of the ship. The Forrestal's ordnance officer asked if they could just wire up the pigtail (electrical connector) while the airplane was in "spot", to save time on the launches, because the Zuni's pigtails were notoriously hard to connect, particularly under pressure. That shortcut was approved by the ship's OPSO, not the Captain, just a few days before this happened. An electric transient fired off the missile from the F-4 when external electric power was disconnected. Those transients are the reason that the safety procedure was there in the first place. There were other issues: Not all of the bombs loaded that day had the thermal protective coating, which was standard on carriers, even then. They were re-using bombs from Korea. Lack of thermal protection allowed them to go high order (detonate) much more easily, early in the fire, and made the fire worse. As the fire continued, bombs continued to go off, missiles fired off, wiping out sailors and airplanes alike, and those airplanes bled fuel on the deck, feeding the fire and making other bombs explode. Though the CO did not approve of the shortcut of safety procedures, and he wasn't found to be at fault, his selection to admiral was rescinded, and he was retired. The US Navy radically changed firefighting, firefighting equipment, and firefighting training (I've been through it twice, every aviator, and every sailor assigned to the flight deck, must go through firefighting). We studied this one closely.
 
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Originally Posted by Astro14
Originally Posted by pbm
Some people say that John McCain's aircraft initiated the whole thing which killed 134 sailors and injured another 161 but the 'official findings' don't make that claim......of course McCain's father was the Admiral in charge of the Pacific at the time......
Conspiracy theory nonsense, spun by those with political motivation. An insult to both the man and the US Navy. The Zuni* from an F-4 across the deck HIT McCain's aircraft and/or that of his wingman. Not clear which, but it exploded on impact with the A-4 drop tank and started the fire. After evacuating from his A-4, McCain rushed in to help fight the fire, despite a lack of formal training, and lack of protective gear. He was wounded by an exploding bomb and frankly, deserved a medal for his heroism. *SOP at the time had the Zunis wired up when the airplane was on the catapult. All forward firing ordnance was treated that way, so that if there was an electric fault, it would fire off the front end of the ship. The Forrestal's ordnance officer asked if they could just wire up the pigtail (electrical connector) while the airplane was in "spot", to save time on the launches, because the Zuni's pigtails were notoriously hard to connect, particularly under pressure. That shortcut was approved by the ship's OPSO, not the Captain, just a few days before this happened. An electric transient fired off the missile from the F-4 when external electric power was disconnected. Those transients are the reason that the safety procedure was there in the first place. There were other issues: Not all of the bombs loaded that day had the thermal protective coating, which was standard on carriers, even then. They were re-using bombs from Korea. Lack of thermal protection allowed them to go high order (detonate) much more easily, early in the fire, and made the fire worse. As the fire continued, bombs continued to go off, missiles fired off, wiping out sailors and airplanes alike, and those airplanes bled fuel on the deck, feeding the fire and making other bombs explode. Though the CO did not approve of the shortcut of safety procedures, and he wasn't found to be at fault, his selection to admiral was rescinded, and he was retired. The US Navy radically changed firefighting, firefighting equipment, and firefighting training (I've been through it twice, every aviator, and every sailor assigned to the flight deck, must go through firefighting). We studied this one closely.
+1 This. Easily found with little research. Common knowledge by anyone without prejudice. Adm McCain WAS NOT IN CHARGE at the time of the accident.
 
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My dad was an engineer that worked on rocket motors, including the ones in ejection seats of that era. I think they are more properly termed cartridges, but according to him the distinction was not relevant. I never thought to ask this specific question , why did they not eject ?. But, he did tell me a story about a few pilots that were killed in Vietnam. They had attempted to eject, and the rockets in the ejection seats failed to eject them out of the plane. After some emergency analysis of a recovered ejection seat rocket, factory rockets and those that had been in service for a while, they discovered that some bacteria was getting into the rockets and causing them to malfunction. The bacteria was unknown at that time, and the rockets were considered to be immune / sealed and not vulnerable, which unfortunately was proved otherwise. Apparently this bacteria could eat through whatever they used to seal ejection seat cartridges / rockets. They did some redesign to the cartridge to fix the issue and swapped them out as quickly as possible, but it took 6 months to get it resolved and new parts to the field. The problem was also found to affect other rocket motors for surface-air missiles and air-air missiles. I think the near-term workaround was to swap out the devices much sooner than the standard inspect / replace interval with newer but old-design parts.
 

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Never heard that cartridge story. I know we changed out cartridges every 270 days for new ones (I think that's the number). Ejection seats have saved thousands of lives. There have also been hundreds who didn't survive ejection. Seats of that era (and mine, newer ones are better) were hard on the human body. Spinal compression, for example, or spinal fracture. A friend's father ejected from an F-4 in Vietnam, lost an inch and a half in height once the fracture healed. Break your back in the ejection, end up in the water with a few other broken bones, and you're in trouble. Can't work the radio. Can't board the raft. The life vest is auto-inflated, but the parachute is all around you. Modest sea currents can drag you under if you don't get free of it...hard to do with a broken arm, or two and a broken back... Pulling the handle beats imminent death from a crash, but it's not something you do lightly...
 
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Pardon me if I am incorrect, but were they also still using the system where the seat itself had rails that would smash the pilot/chair through the canopy for ejection? Not terribly familiar with the Navy planes of that era. With regards to the accusations that John McCain was responsible for the fire? Clearly an attempt to take advantage of the fact that a now-famous person was present to concoct a ridiculous story. I've heard or read similar ridiculous stories about how JFK was responsible for the sinking of PT-109, or that George H.W. Bush was the one who ate a fellow airman, and not desperate Japanese resorting to cannibalism. My father told me stories about how airmen with "connections" or famous names were routinely subject to ridiculous gossip or accusations for all of no good reason, and I guess I'm seeing that right now.
 

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Originally Posted by dwendt44
And yet McCain was the only one punished for his 'exuberance' that was, at least un-officially the cause of the fire to begin with.
Got a source? A credible one? Because that's complete garbage. Not "unofficial", just blatantly, and stupidly, untrue. How could anything that McCain did in his A-4 on the port side of the carrier cause the inadvertent firing of Zuni from the F-4 on the starboard side of the carrier? His "exuberance" had nothing to do with the fire. That story is political tripe, in conflict with the facts. The CO of the Forrestal was, in essence, fired, over this. McCain received no punishment as a result of the fire. McCain's Naval Academy record was full of "exuberance". Put him at the bottom of his class. But it had nothing to do with the Forrestal fire.
 
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Astro14

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Originally Posted by DoubleWasp
Pardon me if I am incorrect, but were they also still using the system where the seat itself had rails that would smash the pilot/chair through the canopy for ejection? Not terribly familiar with the Navy planes of that era. With regards to the accusations that John McCain was responsible for the fire? Clearly an attempt to take advantage of the fact that a now-famous person was present to concoct a ridiculous story. I've heard or read similar ridiculous stories about how JFK was responsible for the sinking of PT-109, or that George H.W. Bush was the one who ate a fellow airman, and not desperate Japanese resorting to cannibalism. My father told me stories about how airmen with "connections" or famous names were routinely subject to ridiculous gossip or accusations for all of no good reason, and I guess I'm seeing that right now.
The A-6 ejection seat punched through the canopy. For the rest of the airplanes of that era, the canopy was jettisoned first, then the seat fired. In the F-14 (later era, but similar set-up), it was about 1.0 seconds between canopy jettison and RIO seat initiation. 0.4 seconds later, the pilot seat fired. The seats now, except for the AV-8B, all have canopy jettison. The Harrier has det cord in the canopy. Pull the handle, and the canopy is blown up as the seat fires. One of many reasons to be scared of flying that death trap... I remember the rocket motor having something like a 4,800# thrust for 0.25 seconds. For your average 200# guy, that is quite a kick in the pants. I don't know what the seat weighs, but assume it's about 200# and you get a 12G instant compression. Even guys who were perfectly positioned for ejection (we trained on that, too, in a seat simulator that fired you up at 5 G) would get hurt sometimes. Normal envelope for the seat was 0-350 Knots, though the seat was supposed to function up to 600 knots. Injury above 350 was certain because, as your arms and legs hit that wind, they would be pulled back, and dislocated or broken. The book used to say something like: "above 350, injury likely, above 450, injury certain." I know of two F-14 crews that attempted ejection at nearly 600 knots. They did not survive. Biometrics matter in all seats. We were carefully measured to ensure that we would fit in the seat. Butt to top of head. Butt to knee length. Those kind of things. In the A-4, for example, if your seated length (butt to knee) was too long in that tight little cockpit, an ejection would remove your lower legs via the instrument panel. A couple of fibias won't slow down a two ton ejection seat rocket motor if your knees were caught under the panel. Similarly, if you sat too high (butt to top of head), you couldn't fly the A-6. Your head would not break the canopy during ejection, and your neck would get crushed until the seat itself broke the canopy. Not good, usually fatal. A friend of mine ended up flying the F-14 for that reason. He had been selected for the A-6, but his biometrics (he was tall) wouldn't allow it. The F-14 was a Cadillac - able to accommodate a wide range of body types, including my XO, a former USNA and Detroit Lions football player of about 6'4". John Stufflebeem. Great guy. The seat on the F-14 was better than zero-zero, by the way. It could handle up to 1500 foot per minute decent rate at 0 feet and still get the crew clear - very important in a soft cat, or broken arresting cable scenario, where the airplane is just above the ocean, and descending rapidly. In those cases, the seat has to stop the downward travel, then accelerate up to sufficient height to open the parachute. In several cases of F-14 crews ejecting after a soft cat (not enough speed to fly), the seat worked brilliantly and got them in a fully deployed 'chute above the flight deck, even though ejection was initiated below the flight deck. It helped if you were skinny. Seats of that era (and Vietnam era) were a single power charge - you got hit with that 4800 pound rocket motor and up you go. Max weight for the seat to perform to specifications was 235#, I think. We had some guys pushing that number. The skinny 165# pilots and RIOs had a lot of extra margin for altitude and sink rate - but they were also going to get a much harder ride up the rails as F=MA and their little "M" was going to result in a lot more "A".
 
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On the other end of the skinny pilot/RIO end of the scale was me when I'd jump from a perfectly good C-130. One of the last ones out of the plane, but at 195-205#, I'd be one of the first on the ground smile Seems you come down a bit faster when you weigh 200# (before any gear) than if you weigh 135 like many young troopers. I can't imagine the excitement of leaving an aircraft traveling at speeds much greater than the C-130, and being rocketed up in the process. And at only 5'11" I can't afford to lose any more height smile
Originally Posted by Astro14
The seat on the F-14 was better than zero-zero, by the way. It could handle up to 1500 foot per minute decent rate at 0 feet and still get the crew clear - very important in a soft cat, or broken arresting cable scenario, where the airplane is just above the ocean, and descending rapidly. In those cases, the seat has to stop the downward travel, then accelerate up to sufficient height to open the parachute. In several cases of F-14 crews ejecting after a soft cat (not enough speed to fly), the seat worked brilliantly and got them in a fully deployed 'chute above the flight deck, even though ejection was initiated below the flight deck. It helped if you were skinny. Seats of that era (and Vietnam era) were a single power charge - you got hit with that 4800 pound rocket motor and up you go. Max weight for the seat to perform to specifications was 235#, I think. We had some guys pushing that number. The skinny 165# pilots and RIOs had a lot of extra margin for altitude and sink rate - but they were also going to get a much harder ride up the rails as F=MA and their little "M" was going to result in a lot more "A".
 
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Has anyone seen the story of a Navy jet going off the flight deck sideways and the "pull" was made by the pilot at the VERY LAST moment. He went parallel to the water for 50 feet MAX before hitting a swell. He lived and was able to give a "hale and hearty" interview about the event. He mentioned he measured 1" shorter afterwards but no other effects of the seat were mentioned.
 

Astro14

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I would need more details. I've seen a few elections first hand. Far more on video/film. Read the details on others. Your description covers many of them. Date? Aircraft type? Ship?
 
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McCain didn't fly F-4s. He was the only one re-assigned off the carrier after the incident. That's a low level punishment for a flight officer. His records are sealed.
 
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Nobody said McCain flew F-4s. Reread what Astro wrote. A-4 is a different aircraft. I spent a lot of time in Air Force F-4s. Had a few friends and acquaintances eject using the Martin Baker seat. None of them had back problems I am aware of, with the exception of one who survived a streamer chute and shattered 3 vertebrae on ground impact. On the other hand, all of the guys I knew that had ejected from an F-105 (different seat) had back problems. I suspect the difference with the cases I'm familiar with and Astro's cases is more or less controlled peacetime ejections where you often have time to get in position and combat ejections where the plane is coming apart and one or more crewmembers is not prepared.
 

Astro14

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Originally Posted by dwendt44
McCain didn't fly F-4s. He was the only one re-assigned off the carrier after the incident. That's a low level punishment for a flight officer. His records are sealed.
McCain flew A-4s. The missile that caused the mishap came off an F-4. From another squadron. On the other side of the ship. So, tell me again HOW he possibly could've been found at fault? If his records are sealed, how do you "know" "why" he got transferred? Guys get transferred all the time. One good reason: pilots who can't fly need to be replaced immediately by pilots who can. So, if say, a pilot is blown back 10 feet by a bomb blast and hit with shrapnel. That makes them injured, ineligible to fly until recovered, and in need of medical treatment beyond what the carrier can offer. Eyewitnesses to the event saw McCain get blown off his feet when the bomb went off. He was hit with shrapnel and injured. His injuries aren't in question. But your sources sure are!
 
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