In an unusual accident, a civilian passenger was ejected from a Dassault Rafale fighter jet of the French Air Force as the aircraft was taking off on Wednesday, reported AeroTime.
The fighter jet departed from Saint-Dizier – Robinson Air Base, a French Air Force base located 2.5 miles west of Saint-Dizier in northwestern France, for a training mission, on March 20.
A spokesperson for the French Air Force told the media, the passenger “did not belong to the Ministry of the Armed Forces” and was participating in an “information flight.”
The spokesperson added the passenger's injuries were not life-threatening.
The pilot of the Rafale was able to take control of the aircraft when the canopy snapped off during the ejection process and landed the jet without incident. The pilot sustained injuries to his hands due to glass debris, French newspaper Le Parisien reported.
The passenger, 64, was "hospitalized and is in stable condition," said the French newspaper. The man's back sustained trauma following the hard impact when the ejection seat landed on the ground.
Reuters reported three investigations had opened into the accident, which the spokesperson described as a “rare” incident.
Each investigation will get to the bottom of what exactly happened during the takeoff. Officials want to know if a malfunction triggered the ejection or was it human error.
Ouest-France, a French newspaper, quoted an Air Force spokesperson as saying an ejection seat accident on a Rafale has never happened.