Air Force pilot-instructor dies after seat of training plane ejects at Texas base

An Air Force Base instructor-pilot died in Texas on Tuesday morning, just a day after the ejection seat was activated during ground operations, according to base officials.

The pilot at the Sheppard Air Force Base was injured when the ejection seat of the trainer aircraft, the T-6A Texan II, was activated at about 2 p.m. on Monday, public affairs officials said.

The aircrew member was transported to the United Regional Health Care System in Wichita Falls for treatment after the incident.

Per Air Force policy, the base is withholding the name of the pilot until 24 hours after the notification of next of kin.

Investigation into cause is underway

An investigation into the cause of the ejection is underway, 82nd Training Wing public affairs officials said in statements.

The pilot was part of the 80th Training Flying Wing, which conducts the Euro-NATO Joint Jet Pilot Training program at the Sheppard base, according to the its website. Combat pilots for NATO are trained in the multinational program, the only such program in the world.

The T-6A Texan II is primarily used for entry-level training, and it is equipped for a crew of two, a student-pilot and an instructor-pilot seated one in front of the other, the base website states.

Their positions are interchangeable. But an air crewmember can also pilot the plane alone from the front seat. The single-engine aircraft was designed to train students in basic flying skills for Air Force and Navy pilots.

Ejection seats intended to save lives

Ejection seats are a safety mechanism for pilots who need to exit the plane in immediate danger.

Over 8,000 pilot lives have been rescued with the use of their ejection seats, according to aircrew training group AMST Group.

However, ejection seats have previously failed. Officials identified the failure of one as a partial cause for the death of Lt. David Schmitz, a 32-year-old pilot who was killed in an F-16 crash at South Carolina’s Shaw Air Force Base in June 2020.

Trish Choate reports for the Times Record News and Anthony Robledo reports for USA TODAY.

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