United States Marine Corps

RF-8A Crusader

BuNo 145612

8th March 1965

MAG-14, 2nd MAW
Captain Gary A. Davis


Ground Level Ejection

I was scheduled to fly CY 412, an RF-8A Crusader (photo model) for a mid-day local training flight including field carrier landing practice (FCLP) with a landing signal officer (LSO). I was on my second or third landing when the accident occurred. After touchdown when I advanced the throttle to full military power the aircraft took off, but the nose came up well beyond the normal take-off attitude (about 30 degrees). As I entered a stall I hit the afterburner. While nose high like this the aircraft rolled inverted and as the nose fell through I was able to roll back toward an upright attitude. At this point I ejected using the face curtain. The canopy is jettisoned automatically as part of the ejection sequence. The aircraft’s collision with ground caused the canopy to not completely separate from the aircraft. As a result I struck the left canopy rail with my hardhat and left shoulder. My hardhat was cracked (actually broken through the outer shell) and I suffered a concussion and a fractured left scapula. Because the ejection seat collided with the canopy, the seat did not reach its’ normal height above the ground. This resulted in the chute not fully opening before I hit the ground. The parachute was behind me instead of above me when I hit the ground. I landed on my tailbone/lower back. To this day, when I sit for a prolonged period I have difficulty standing up straight without pain. After a few minutes I’m OK again. I’m not sure if this is what we referred to as a “Martin-Baker back” or if my back injury was due to my collision with the ground. It was probably a combination of both.

     Later I learned that the LSO from his position did not see me eject. He thought I was part of the fireball. I’m told that I landed in front of the wreckage The LSO was behind the wreckage.

     I woke up two days later in the hospital. It took a few days after that before I was able to recall what happened.

     The aircraft accident report (AAR) listed cause of the accident as “Undetermined”. Evidence showed that the aircraft struck the ground tail first and the leading edge of the unit horizontal tail (UHT) dug into the ground. This would indicate that the control was in the full nose up position. The AAR further stated that there were only two things that would cause the UHT to be in this position; (1): the control linkage to the UHT would have to separate, or (2): the pilot was holding the stick full aft. The fuselage broke in two pieces and made it impossible to determine the condition of the control linkage.

As the pilot I have to reject the theory that I was holding the stick back in my lap. I had to have initiated the ejection sequence prior to impact in order for the canopy to react as it did. When the SAR crew picked me up I was still clutching the face curtain in both hands. I could not have had both hands on the curtain and still held the stick back in my lap. At the time of this accident I had 4,240 total hours of which 425 were in the F8. I served three years as a flight instructor. I certainly understood what would happen if I were to hold the stick in my lap on take off.

I was grounded for some time with my injuries, but five months later I was cleared for full flight status and was back flying the RF8 again.


Gary Davis
in correspondence November 2008 - April 2009


   Thanks to Gary Davis for permission to include his narrative of the ejection and the photos. The second photo is taken at Da Nang in 1969