Fighter jet pilot survives ejection while flying at supersonic speed

“Had I waited even half a second longer to pull the ejection handles, I would have hit the water still in my seat.” 

by | Published on 5th May 2023

This fighter jet pilot survived ejection while flying faster than the speed of sound

Captain Brian Udell was flying an F15 for a combat training mission over the Atlantic Ocean when he lost control of the jet. 

“I didn’t know if I was upside down or right side up, I had no way of telling where the nearest horizon was,” he said.

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The jet fighter was now traveling at a supersonic speed and quickly losing altitude. 

“When I saw 10,000 feet go by, I commanded a bailout,” he said. 

“I left the cockpit at 3,000 feet and got my parachute at less than 1,000 feet. 

“Had I waited even half a second longer to pull the ejection handles, I would have hit the water still in my seat.” 

When Udell ejected himself, he said it felt like he was “hit by a train”.

“It ripped my helmet right off my head, broke all the blood vessels in my head and face, my head was swollen the size of a basketball and my lips were the size of cucumbers,” he said. 

The force of the wind was so strong that Udell sustained serious injuries. 

“My left elbow was dislocated and pointed backwards and the only thing holding my leg on was an artery, the vain, the nerve and the skin,” he said. 

“And my left leg snapped at the bottom half.”

By the time he was gliding down with his parachute, Udell said he was “exhausted”. 

When pilots eject themselves, their seats deploy a one-man life raft. 

This raft turned out to be a lifesaver for the pilot. 

But because Udell was so badly injured, it was a challenge to even get inside.

“When I went to kick, the bottom half of my legs were just flopping,” he said. 

Udell said he had just one good arm left to pull himself in. 

“I thought I’m going to die out here, but I thought I’ve got a wife and a baby I need to stay here for and if I don’t get in this raft, I’m not going to make it,” he said. 

So with all the strength he could muster, Udell pulled himself into the life raft and escaped the freezing ocean water. 

Four hours later, Udell was found by search and rescue crews.

That was April 18, 1989.

Now, more than 30 years later, Udell miraculously lives to tell the tail. 

You can listen to his full story above.



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Kate Bain is the Page Editor at supercarblondie.com. She is based in Dubai and coordinates coverage of the latest news across automotive, technology, and lifestyle. Kate has a bachelor's degree in business and post graduate in journalism. She is an experienced editor and journalist who has worked for News Corp, Daily Mail Australia, and Sky News. When she's not at work, you'll find her attached at the hip to her dog, Thor.

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