The ejection seat

Flying a jet fighter can be sometimes tricky, and in some cases, you may need to eject in order to save your life. The ejection seat technique dates back from 1945, and has since been improved to fit all modern jet fighters. But did you know that at some point, they thought about a flying ejection seat ? During the Vietnam War, the US Navy lost over 500 aircraft in combat, as a result of which nearly 200 aircrew became prisoners of war. Alongside them, the US Air Force suffered three times as many aircraft fosses. In every case there were aircrew who had either been killed, captured or were in need of rescue. And while rescuing aircrew from behind enemy lines was given top priority, the challenge was considerable. Dedicated USAF squadrons flying Sikorsky HH-3 ‘Jolly Green Giant’ helicopters, supported by heavily armed, piston-engined Douglas A-1 Skyraider attack aircraft, flew dangerous extraction missions, which, of course, put even greater numbers of aircrew at risk. This prompted the navy and air force to ask, ‘What if downed aircrew had the means to fly themselves back into friendly territory?’ Three different aircraft companies accepted the challenge of coming up with an answer. The results were worthy of a Transformers movie: ejection seats that, on firing their occupant out of a stricken aircraft, unfolded, extended and locked themselves into mini-flying machines. Bell Aerosystems suggested a jet-powered hang-glider that suspended the pilot, face down and still strapped to his seat, beneath it. Fairchild-Hiller also suggested a glider, but theirs was a sort of pop-up machine made of cloth stretched over a spring-loaded metal frame. My favourite is the gyrocopter designed by Kaman Corps. On ejecting, a two-bladed rotor unfurled above the pilot’s head, while a tail and a micro turbofan jet flicked up behind him. And the name given to this invention? Stowable Aircrew Vehicle Escape Roto-seat – or SAVER for short. How practical any of these ideas really were for aircrew disorientated and sometimes injured by the violent act of ejection itself remains a matter for conjecture as none, sadly, made it into service. But that they were dreamt up at all merits a hat tip to the creativity and ingenuity of aircraft designers – and to the importance that the USA attaches to bringing its soldiers home.

Summer is here and we have more time to fly. And when the weather is crappy or not as good as we wished for, we can always watch some cool movies where aviation plays a central part. We’ve decided to give you a list of the movies we like where aviation is fully part of the story, and some movies have great shots too. Here it goes, in no particular order:

Battle of Britain (1969)
A great cast features in this epic account of the RAF’s fight for Britain’s survival. Some terrific aerial footage (although quite a lot of models were used too).

The Dam Busters (1955)
One of the very best. Great story, great flying scenes. Incomparable theme tune. There’s talk of a remake. I hope it happens. I hope it’s good. And, people, if they do change the name of the dog, it really doesn’t matter.

Airplane! (1980)
Played deadpan, this comedy classic spawned a glut of imitators. The original and best feels exactly like the disaster movies it so brilliantly spoofed.

Flight of the Phoenix (1965)
“It’s not a party, there is no booze,’said the trailer for no particularly good reason. James Stewart, Richard Attenborough and Ernest Borgnine lead an all-star cast, stranded in the desert, trying to build a new aircraft out of the wreckage of their old one.

The Right Stuff(1983)
An epic film of Tom Wolfe’s classic account of the birth of the space race in America. Real care was taken to make sure the flying looked right. And Sam Shepard as Chuck Yeager? Perfect.

The Sound Barrier (1952)
David Lean, director of Lawrence of Arabia, turns his attention to the dawn of the jet age – a mouth-watering prospect. Beautifully made, it features great footage of early 1950s British jets.

Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines (1965)
Great fun. The brilliant Terry-Thomas leads a who’s-who of British character actors in this fabulous comedy about a pre-First World War air race involving an amazing collection of machines, some of them built specially for the movie.

Top Gun (1986)
With pretty much every line being quotable, this is a pop-culture classic. You know the story: Tom Cruise aims to be best of the best. Made with full US Navy cooperation, the aerial footage of duelling F-14 Tomcats won’t be bettered

X-15 (1961)
“Actually filmed in space” was a line they couldn’t even use for Apollo 13. Narrated by James Stewart, this semi-documentary features real footage of the X-15 and stars Charles Bronson. Amazingly, it was directed by Richard
Donner, who later made Lethal Weapon

The Final Countdown (1980)
A nuclear-powered US aircraft carrier slips back in time to the build-up to the attack on Pearl Harbor. You’ve got to love any movie that has Kirk Douglas ordering a pair of F-14 Tomcats to “Splash the Zeros’.

The Great Waldo Pepper (1975)
It’s clear why this Robert Redford movie is a favourite with pilots. It’s about veteran First World War fighter pilots barnstorming their way across America and includes incredible stunt-flying.

Restoring historic or decommissioned military aircraft is more common than most people may believe. “It’s not unusual at all. There’s quite a culture involved in aviation history and preserving historic aircraft,” said historic renovation consultant Steve Thompson of Mattoon. “They often get the aircraft in flying condition and tour parts of the country with them” like the recent appearance of the 1920s “Tin Goose” in Jacksonville, he said. “We take the manuals that were issued the year the aircraft was built and try and spec out the materials and the components that they would have had during their period of significance,” Thompson said. Read More

Tematis, the leading jet fighter operator in France is relaunching jet rides on the L-39 Albatros in Paris. This unique experience is taking place in Paris Pontoise, just 40mn north of Paris. The airport is a perfect location as traffic is minimal during the week allowing to fly repeatedly and traffic is not too important at weekends. The jet fighter ride will be the icing on top of a full day of instruction. A full briefing will be done in the morning, including technical specifications of the aircraft, flight dynamics and safety on board. A specific training will be done with regards to the ejection seat. After lunch, the lucky one will be fitted in a flying suit and will be able to enjoy a unique jet fighter ride in the L-39 Albatros. The aircraft is a jet trainer manufactured by Aero Vodochody and is capable of high speeds and sustaining high level of G force. The flight plan will be according to weather conditions but usually consist of three phases: passenger testing – whereby the pilot checks that the passenger feels ok by doing smooth maneuvers. Follows a low level flight to feel the speed, and then aerobatics to truly feel the Gs. Price of the full day is 2400 euros and including a 30mn ride in the L-39 Albatros.

We are positioning a jet fighter in the south of France in May 2015. This is the perfect location to enjoy the sun and charm of southern France and experimenting the thrills of a jet fighter rides.

Save the date:
May 1-2-3
May 8-9-10
May 14-15-16

Jet fighter rides will start from Aix en Provence. The aircraft is the Fouga Magister, a jet fighter selected by the French National displays team – the Patrouille de France, for it’s incredible agility. This is one of the best aircrafts for aerobatics!

ou can book directly your jet fighter ride in France

This is it, we are going for a 3rd war in Irak. Jet fighter rides from France have been dispatched to the Gulf and have started to work on recognaissance to allow other allied countries to strike directly at the jihadists. The US and regional allies launched multiple strikes against Islamic militants in Syria for the first time on Monday night, in a substantial escalation of Washington’s military role in the Middle East long resisted by Barack Obama. The US Central Command said that the US and “partner nation forces”, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Bahrain, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates used “a mix of fighter, bomber, remotely-piloted aircraft and Tomahawk Land Attack Missiles” to conduct 14 strikes against forces of the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, or Isis. The targets included buildings used as supply depots and logistics hubs near the Syria-Iraq border. But the U.S. also struck deeper into Syria, at Raqqa, the de facto capital of Islamic State, according to U.S. officials. The expanded war against Islamic State forces propelled the U.S. military into an uncharted involvement in Syria, where it has little intelligence and virtually no ground support. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a UK-based monitoring organisation, said the US and its partners conducted at least 56 attacks in the provinces of Raqqa, Deir al-Zor, Hassaka and Aleppo. Activists say the coalition also hit the al-Qaeda-linked group Jabhat al – Nusra, which is not affiliated with Isis, suggesting a more expansive range of targets in Syria than previously announced. Some activists groups claimed the strikes on Nusra forces went as far as Idlib, a northwestern region far from Isis influence. This is just the beginning of the war, and no one knows how long it will take. It has taken considerable time to get rid of Saddam Hussein, and it is not clear in the minds of the allied forces how long they are to stay.

Knowing what was going in the world has always been a focus to build better, faster and high flying airplanes. In an age of satellites, GPS and Google Maps it’s easy to lose sight of just how difficult it used to be to know what was going on beyond the horizon. It was a particular problem for US military commanders fighting Japanese forces in the Pacific during the Second World War. They simply had no means of knowing what the enemy was up to. As early as 1943 there were plans to use long-range bombers flying out of India and China against the Japanese mainland, but they had no reconnaissance aircraft with the range to get there and back, nor the speed and high-altitude capability necessary to stay out of trouble if they could. So they asked US manufacturers for a machine that could do it all. In response, Republic Aviation, the company behind the butch-looking P-47 Thunderbolt, came up with one of the most beautiful aircraft ever designed. Perfectly streamlined and elegantly proportioned, Republic’s XF-12 Rainbow looked like a step into the future. Its performance too was every bit as good as it looked. Hauled through the air by four hugely powerful Pratt & Whitney Wasp Major turbo-supercharged radial piston engines each capable of generating 3500 horsepower, the Rainbow could outrun most contemporary fighters. The trouble was, when the prototype Rainbow was revealed in December 1945, the USAAF no longer had the same pressing need to spy on Japan. Fortunately, the maker had designed it with a view to converting it for commercial air travel. After all, what could be more prestigious for an airline than flying what was, in effect, the Concorde of its day? Both Pan Am and American Airlines placed orders, but in the austere times that followed the war, passengers and airlines were prepared to forgo speed and exclusivity, so bigger, slower, cheaper rivals, such as the Douglas DC-6, cleaned up. Not a single Rainbow airliner was ever built. The XF-12 remains the fastest four-engined piston-engined aircraft ever built and the only one capable of exceeding 450 mph in level flight. But just like Concorde she turned out to be the wrong bet.


Want real thrills ? Come fly with us. Check out our jet fighter ride:

Here is a short story of the B-52 Stratofortress, an aircraft that changed the world. In 1954, strategic air command (SAC) began taking delivery of the aircraft that would come to symbolize U.S. strategic air power for generations of bomber aircrew — Boeing’s B-52 Stratofortress, commonly known as the “Buff” (in genteel translation, Big Ugly Fat Fellow). In 1946, Boeing’s design team had begun work on a very large bomber and they finally produced the immense B-52, powered by eight jet engines hung in four underwing pods. It was not long before SAC showed the world what the B-52 could do. In 1956, within a year of its arrival in the front line, a B-52 dropped a thermonuclear Weapon with a yield of almost four megatons at Bikini Atoll. Global reach was demonstrated in January 1957 when three B-52s of the 93rd Bomb Wing, supported by KC-97 tankers, flew from California via Labrador, Morocco, Ceylon, the Philippines, Guam and Hawaii to complete a nonstop round-the-world flight of 24,325 miles in 45 hours and 19 minutes. Originally intended to penetrate enemy defences at high subsonic speeds and altitudes above 50,000 feet, the B-52 showed enormous capacity to absorb technological developments and adapt to changes in role and tactics. Its unrefuelled radius of action of well over 4,000 miles became almost unlimited with flight refuelling support. Over the years its maximum loaded weight rose to nearly half a million pounds as it took on more internal fuel, increased its Weapon-carrying capacity, and accumulated various navigation and electronic defensive systems. At the heart of the air-breathing element of the U.S. strategic deterrence triad during the Cold War, the B-52 also proved a force to be reckoned with in conventional Warfare. During the Vietnam War, the firepower for tactical operations was vastly increased in June 1965 when SACS B-52s were made available to fly combat missions. The B-’52Fs that flew the first missions from Guam were modified to enable them to carry 27 750-pound bombs internally and 24 more on external racks. Later, B-52Ds went through a Big Belly modification allowing them to load the astonishing number of 84 500-pound bombs in the bay, while retaining the external capacity for 24 750-pound bombs. Although B-52 raids sometimes struck at empty forest, captured Viet Cong reported that they were the thing they most feared. With the bombers operating at 30,000 feet, nothing was seen or heard before hundreds of bombs arrived, obliterating everything over a huge area. For those who had survived the experience of a B-52 raid, wondering when the heavens would open again could concentrate the mind and weaken the spirit. A little less than two years after they began, the 10,000th B-52 combat sortie was flown, and the big bombers were increasingly relied on to break up enemy troop concentrations.


In 1968, the U.S. Marines’ base at Khe Sanh was surrounded by 20,000 North Vietnamese regulars and remained under siege for 77 days. Operation Niagara, devised to provide the Marines with air support, included formations of three B-52s arriving over Khe Sanh every 90 minutes to bomb at the direction of the Combat Skyspot radar. Initially, a buffer zone allowed the B-525 to bomb closer than 3,000 yards from the forward Marine positions. However, when enemy troops developed bunker complexes closer in, the Marine commander agreed to reduce the buffer to 1,000 feet. Ensuing strikes devastated enemy positions. Vietnamese soldier estimated that one strike alone had killed 75 percent of an 1, 800 man regiment. In December 1972, as the Vietnam War moved into its closing stages, B-52s joined the Linebaeker attacks on the North Vietnamese capital. After three days, the B-52 squadrons had flown 300 sorties but lost nine aircraft to the mass of SA-2s defending the city, six of which had been shot down on the third night. SAC therefore changed tactics. Raids were more concentrated in time, and 13-52s bombed from varying heights and directions. Steep escape turns were avoided, because they produced large radar returns, and crews made random altitude changes to confuse the SAM operators. Using these tactics, only two more B-52s were lost on the four remaining nights up to Christmas Eve. The B-52s flew 729 sorties in 11 days and dropped over 15,000 tons of bombs. There can be little doubt that the Linebacker campaigns were instrumental in forcing the North Vietnamese back to the conference table. Peace talks were resumed on January 8 and the ceasefire document was signed on January 23, 1973.

B-52s were again involved during combat operations against Iraq and the Taliban in Afghanistan. In January 1991, B-52Gs opened Operation Desert Storm with a 35-hour mission from Barksdale AFB, Louisiana, the longest bombing raid ever at that time, launching cruise missiles at power stations and communications facilities in Iraq. Other B-52s flew from Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean, and bases in the United Kingdom, Spain and Saudi Arabia were also used. The bombers were B-52Cs, carrying loads of 51 750-pound bombs to strike at targets like the Republican Guard troop concentrations. Flying in flights of three, they released 153 bombs at a time, carpeting an area one and a half miles long by a mile wide. The B-52 attacks shattered the morale of many Iraqi units, and were instrumental in persuading large numbers of soldiers to surrender as soon as the Coalition ground offensive was launched. In one form or another, the B-52 has been operational since 1955. Over half a century later, the Buff has absorbed innumerable modifications and rebirths to remain a formidable aircraft. There is reason to believe that the aircraft’s service life could extend to the year 2040, by which time it could be flown by the great-grandchildren of the original B-52 crews.

Very good news to all aircraft enthousiasts, we will have the L-39 jet trainer flying again very soon. We will update you regarding dates and locations. But we are very excited about these developments.


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