United States Navy

Fighter Squadron 101

F3H-2N Demon


29th September 1959

NAS Boca Chica
LTJG Bernard (Ben) Smith


Thru the Canopy

During the late 1950s the USN began to employ Martin-Baker ejection seats into their aircraft . Early American manufactured seats were either being replaced in older aircraft during refits or being provided with them from the beginning.

One of the first Navy pilots to use a Mk 5 ejection seat was Bernard Smith.

The single seat McDonnell F3H Demon  that Ben was flying had recently returned from rework were the older McDonnell ejection seat was removed and a new  Martin-Baker Mk 5 seat installed.

Then a 28 year old Lt (jg), Ben recalls,

"In Sept. 59, I was qualifying in the Demon in Key West for assignment to VF-14. On the night of Sept 29, I launched following my instructor for night intercepts.

That morning at the All Pilots Meeting, The C.O., Mickey Weisner, stated a new restriction. "Do not light the burner below 5000 feet if above 300kts".

Shortly after take-off, I modulated the burner to min. and it blew-out.

Aware of the recent restriction, I remained in Military power and shortly after passing 5000 feet at 290 kts, relit the burner. I immediately experienced a complete engine failure. I pulled the throttle to cut-off, dropped the nose to maintain 290 kts. and deployed the RAT which got electrical power to my instruments.

I proceeded with the relight procedures, got a light and it stagnated at 22% with a high EGT.  I shut down and began the procedure again several times with similar results."

Ben remembers clearly that he was left with little other choice than to eject from his stricken aircraft.

Now, at  21:00 hours, flying over Key West Florida in clear weather at 1,800 feet he reached for the face curtain that would activate the peacetime ejection sequence over water

" .   .   .   . I ejected. This was through the canopy with 5 degrees  nose-down and travelling at 290 Kts."


The seat "worked as advertised" and Ben Smith experienced few problems, no tumbling, no injuries and one hour later, "I was picked up by the Navy Search and Rescue boat having landed in the water 6 miles north of Key West"


I discovered later this was the first ejection in the Demon using the Martin Baker seat.


 I went on to enjoy 3 cruises in VF-14 on the Roosevelt with the Demon without further major emergencies.

Ben Smith 
December 2007


page last updated
Friday, 14 December 2007 22:53