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You are Here: Parachute History.com >> Military >> Ejections >> Ed Clexton Ejections

Ed Clexton Ejections

by Ed Clexton

I 'punched out' two times in the mid Sixties. I was a Navy test pilot at NAS Patuxent River, MD. Both were Martin-Baker seats.

The first was in 1966 out of an F8 Crusader. That had a fuel cell implosion as I was doing about 700 knots (Mach 1.1) at very low level over the Atlantic Ocean. This is called a very high q condition - lots of pressure on the aircraft components - and the main fuel cell imploded under the pressure.

I had enough speed and a little fuel to convert the speed into altitude and try to get back to the base, some 40 miles west. But -half way there, the engine quit (fuel exhaustion), so after several attempts at re-lights, the signs were clear - good engine not running, no fuel on the fuel gage, etc, so I punched out at 10K feet.

I experienced the extreme calm during the drop until landing in the top of a pine tree. Luckily a Navy helo from Norfolk was airborne and was sent to my location. They 'picked' me out of the tree as it was moving back and forth quite a bit from the helo downwash. I suffered a major contusion on the back of my left leg (knot still there today) from hitting and breaking a large branch on entry into the tree.

The second was during spin tests in 1967 in the F4 Phantom II. The Phantom had a flat spin mode that was unrecoverable with normal control deflections. A very large 'spin chute' was installed in place of the plane's landing drag chute to recover the aircraft in case of a (rare, but possible) flat spin.

On the first 'practice' spin of the flight, I stalled the aircraft with level wings, put in full cross controls (as intended) and the aircraft stalled and departed flight quite rapidly. The angle of attack rapidly climbed above 60 degrees (normal spin) to 90 + 10 degrees and remained there for the rest of the flight.

I deployed the emergency 'spin' chute, but it didn't deploy (open). It merely flapped along side the aircraft on the side opposite the spin. After lots of radio communications with the chase pilot and the engineers on the ground, and 19 turns later under negative 'g' conditions, I pulled the alternate ejection handle between my legs (the negative 'g's prevented me from being able to sit up straight and pull the overhead handle).

Consequently, three vertebrae were crushed in my lower back on ejection. I was grounded for 30 days while the soreness subsided and lectured on F4 spins to USN, USMC and USAF Phantom pilots throughout the US until I resumed flying.

After each incident, I received a silkworm pin and Martin-Baker tie. After leaving test work, I went on to fly 200 combat mission in Vietnam from the USS Kitty Hawk; commanded a Phantom Squadron; commanded an amphibious cargo ship; the nuclear carrier Eisenhower; a Group of nuclear carriers and their Air Wings; and retired as a Vice Admiral, US Navy.


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