Volume 39, Issue 5 (September 1994)
Ejection Seat Aircraft Fatalities in the United States Military, 1966 to 1990
When a military jet aircraft becomes incapable of controlled powered flight, the aircrew has the alternative of initiating the ejection sequence. In a majority of cases the ejection sequence is successful in extracting the aircrew from probable death. However, in a minority of cases the ejected aircrewmember does not survive. We analyzed 57 autopsy cases from 1966 to 1990 of military aircraft fatalities in which ejection was initiated. These cases were analyzed for injury patterns, age, rank, military branch, type of aircraft, and circumstances surrounding the ejection. The majority of fatalities occurred during “out-of-envelope” ejections and were associated with extreme whole-body trauma. Drowning fatalities were associated with relatively minor traumatic injury. Parachute malfunctions resulted in extreme total-body decelerative injuries. The remainder of the fatalities were due to man-seat separation failure, human error, and unfortunate circumstances. Two cases of hangman's type cervical neck fracture were observed during high-speed ejection.