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U.S. Air Force pilot killed when ejection seat activates on the ground in Texas

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T-6A Texan II U.S. Air Force aircraft (Credit: Keira Rossman)

A U.S. Air Force instructor pilot died of his injuries Tuesday after the ejection seat of his plane mistakenly activated during ground operations at Sheppard Air Force Base in Texas, officials say.

The instructor, Captain John Robertson, was in a T-6A Texan II at Sheppard Air Force Base in Wichita Falls, Texas when the ejection seat was activated. Robertson was severely injured and succumbed to his injuries on Tuesday.

“This is a devastating loss for Captain Robertson’s family and loved ones, and for the entire 80th Flying Training Wing,” said Col. Mitchell J. Cok, the acting wing commander. “Captain Robertson was a highly valued Airman and instructor pilot.”

Other details about the circumstances of the accident were not immediately released.

An interim safety board investigation was convened immediately following the incident and a full Air Force Safety Investigation Board is expected to be in place later this week. Their report will be released when their investigation is complete.

An ejection seat is designed to rescue the pilot in an emergency situation and is commonly found on certain types of military aircraft. The system has saved many lives but accidents occasionally happen.

In 2021, three crew members were killed when a plane’s ejection system mistakenly activated during preflight checks at an airbase in western Russia. A fourth crew member survived.

And in 2020, a U.S. Air Force pilot was killed when his parachute failed to deploy after using the ejection seat on his F-16 fighter jet, which crashed near Shaw Air Force Base in South Carolina.

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