LT Joseph Dwayne "Joe" Durmon

                                                                                                      photo via Tom Harten




My "Big Brother" Joe Durmon died on my birthday, January 13, 1986.  No one ever told me exactly what happened.
I remember vaguely some mention that he may have been at fault.  Reading that his death was not his own fault and that it more than likely saved
future lives was just great to read.  He was my Big Brother by way of The Big Brother Program.  Anyone would be hard pressed to ever find a
cooler man as their Big Brother, besides the coolness factor of being a Naval Aviator (and writing me a letter when he met Tom Cruise when they were filming a movie he would never see), he played video games before they were cool, was an avid camper, and a  good ol' boy from Arkansas.

Thanks again,

Thomas Harten
San Diego, CA


13th January 1986   F14 Tomcat 205


USS Enterprise
 Inadvertent ejections while leaving aircraft

see FEEDBACK below

  Inadvertent ejections
LT Joseph Dwayne "Joe" "Dirt" Durmon
photo via Tom Harten
LTJG Stephen “Chumley” Engeman, RIO

"Aboard the USS Enterprise, that day we sailed from Alameda, Ca, to southern California to pick up our air wing to begin WESTPAC'86. The first aircraft on board was Blacklion 205.This Tomcat then parked on elevator #3. The pilot got out of his seat and stood on the step next to the cockpit. The RIO was in his seat unstrapped. The pilot pulled out his flight bag and caught the lower ejection handle firing both seats. The pilot was knocked off the plane and onto the flight deck and killed. The RIO shot up about 35 ft. into the air and landed on the flight deck. He died also. The plane was offloaded onto a barge off Hawaii" [jam]


"The crew had placed clothing hanging bags in the void of the canopy behind the rear seat, as was the custom before this event. The F-14 was recovered, taxied to spot and tied down all without incident. The crew safed the seats, unstrapped and opened the canopy. The pilot stood up on the seat as the canopy opened.
What they didn’t know was that one or more of the clothing hangers had become entangled in the rear ejection seat’s face curtain actuating cable. Both seats fired."


"I just remember the circumstances because all Tomcat Squadrons had to change their SOP after that to not stuff items in the so-called Turtleback part of the canopy (which I had done routinely)."


"Unless a video camera was present and recorded the of events resulting in the ejections of 34 year old Lt. Joseph Dwayne Durmon, pilot, and 28 year old Lt(jg) Stephen P. Engeman, copilot and Radar Intercept Officer, from Black Lion 205, the F-14 Tomcat fighter jet, parked on elevator #3 of USS Enterprise CVN 65 flight deck, my contention is that Lt. Durmon got out of his seat in the cockpit with his flight bag already in hand.  As he stood on the step next to the cockpit, he realized that his copilot and navigator, Lt(jg) Engeman, had encountered some difficulties getting up out of his seat in the cockpit.  Lt. Durmon reached over to prevent the activation of the ejection mechanism, at which point the presumed eyewitness present, upon hearing them talking, then first began to see what was happening, concluded incorrectly that Lt. Durmon had reached back over into the cockpit to get his flight bag and inadvertently pulled on the ejection mechanism. "     
R. F. Berry
n email 14th December 2008


I was there, it was on board the USS Enterprise [CVN-65]. I was the Flight Deck Coordinator the mishap aircraft had just recovered as 1st Tomcat on fly on for 1986 cruise. Initially aircraft was spotted in “Six Pack” abreast the island ground crew began tying aircraft down aircraft still had engines turning at this point. Then Handler decided to re-spot it forward of island, so we broke it down again and pulled it through six pack to bring around forward of island, Yellow shirt called for a push back at this time and we pushed aircraft back in to spot. Aircraft at this time was tied down and shut down. Then Handler decided to re-spot for 3rd time aft to junk yard behind the island. Aircrew [Lt. Dirt Durman and NFO Ltjg Steve Engeman] had already began unstrapping. I signaled to Dirt if he wanted to get out and for me to ride brakes back aft. He signalled that they would ride brakes aft. We hooked on and towed F-14 to Junk Yard. Dirt elected to keep canopy closed throughout this process. When finally in spot I called handler and sarcastically asked if we were going to get any more re-spot practice for his deck crew he did not reply. So I signalled to Dirt and Steve to get out. I was on boarding ladder opening steps I had just opened Dirt’s step and was reaching for Steves step, Dirt had started to rise up in his seat and Steve was taunting me with a bag of burritos from the Beach as the canopy slid back. I was blown off the ladder and landed on my back I could see Dirt spinning up and landed just forward of the Radome hinge-point and he fell off to the starboard side of the nose. Steve went much higher and came down head first into the Starboard parrots beak then flipped over to starboard side. I could see Dirt was gone so I crawled under to Steve who tho had massive facial injuries was still alive. I finally got CAG to respond to my radio calls and the medical team responded. Steve was transported back to the beach where his family took him off life support. Granted the aircraft had bags stuffed in the turtledeck of the canopy but I never saw any bags wrapped around the seat as the AMB stated in the mishap report.

V/R Michael J Kern
AQCS Retired
in email 5th April 2012