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Canadian Armed Forces 421 TAC(F) SQN

CF-104 Starfighter

104807

27th, November, 1980
12:57 GMT


On 27th, November, 1980 Captain Ralph Edward Harrison, who was then 38 years old,  was piloting CF-104 Starfighter  "Hawkeye 27" from the CFB Baden-Soellingen, in West Germany. While flying over farmland an  Explosion and Fire crippled the jet's engine leaving Captain Harrison no alternative than to eject which he did in level flight at approximately 1600' AGL and  approximately 200 Kts. The crash occurred over farmland 6nm from the south runway of CFB Baden-Soellingen, near the village of Muchenschop, West Germany. Weather conditions were  fair with a cloud base at 1400', vis 2-3nm in haze, light winds. He did not experience any difficulties in ejecting using his, Stanley produced Lockheed C-2 upward firing, ejection seat, but did sustain, " . . . injuries to my knees during ejection caused by either hitting the canopy bow or man/seat collision . . . . . because of my injuries,  I was unserviceable for 11 weeks and then I went back flying. "

    via Ralph Harrison

Captain Ralph Edward Harrison,
CAF Forces
around 1979
 

 

Captain Ralph Harrison

 

"This ejection occurred at the end of a three day local exercise. On returning for a full stop landing, IFR recoveries were in process and I was cleared for a radar vectored Ground Controlled Radar Approach  (GCA ).  GCA called me one mile from the glide path and I lowered full flaps and increased fuel flow because of the extra drag and then that's when the banging started, really loud clanging, banging.  It didn't feel like explosions more like as if some one was hitting the aircraft with a sledge hammer and at the same time the 104 rolled violently left and right three or four times.  There was about three to five bangs and with each bang the Starfighter rolled back and forth.  At the same time the warning panel lights and the master caution light would flash like a pin-ball machine but the only one that stayed on was number 2 generator failed.  With each bang the panel would light up and then go out but I couldn't catch up with it to see what lights were flashing and that moment I declared an emergency.  The engine instruments looked normal to me and no fire warning lights came on. Then almost immediately there was a tremendous explosion which really vibrated the aircraft and fumes entered the cockpit.  I called GCA that I was ejecting. I would estimate the time from the start of the banging to ejection was between 10 to 15 seconds."
 


"clipping from our base newspaper"

 

"As I was IFR and in cloud I kept the 104 steady with my right hand and pulled the "D" ring with the other hand. As the "D" ring was travelling up I released the control stick and used both hands to continue pulling.  The canopy blew off with very loud bang and the shoulder straps pulled me back quite quickly.  I saw the instrument panel and the canopy bow flash by and at the same time there was a  very, very loud roar probably caused by the wind blast and the rocket motor in the ejection seat.  I felt I was tumbling backwards.  The roaring ceased and I remember thinking this is where the chute should open.  I felt a gentle tug and I could see I had a good chute.  Almost immediately I came out the clouds.  I was sitting straight up and down with no oscillation of the chute.  I would estimate I was about 1500' above ground.  At this time I was aware my knees were hurting and the flying suit was torn around the knees. I don't remember how I received these injuries. I was having difficulty in breathing and I realized the problem was my mask was still on and then I removed it from my face.   Knowing I would be landing soon, I released the seat pack which is attached to the parachute and to the mae west by a lanyard and I felt a tug when the seat pack reached the end of the lanyard and deployed but the line broke and I helplessly watched the pack fall to earth with the dingy opening.  The wind started to drift me towards woods which were near a freshly ploughed field.  I pulled on the back parachute lines which set a drift away from the trees.  About 200' I started to go right towards that ploughed field.  The drift was slow and I managed a soft landing.  I released the chute right away.  I laid there for a few minutes rubbing my knees until the pain went away.  By this time I was drawing a crowd.  The aircraft explosions had alerted their attention to me .  Two nice ladies found my seat pack and brought it to me but they didn't stick around.  A gentleman from the local village came to me a put his hand on my shoulder and in German told me I was going to be alright but he didn't stay either.  I think there were trying to tell me something.  Then I realized I had on a shoulder holster with a pistol in it ( the pistol was carried as a part of the exercise and it was unloaded and the firing pin had been removed).  Perhaps that's why they didn't want to keep me company!  I opened the seat pack and found the emergency radio but the container for the radio had been bent on impact and I couldn't get it out.  About 15 minutes later a German ambulance arrived and took me to the base. I believe someone in the local village must have called for the ambulance.  I ended up with contusion/abrasion to each knee, with a right chip fracture of the patella and a marked hemarthrosis.  I had no other bruises not even from the parachute straps. As for the cause of the accident, the Board of Inquiry found that during a routine check prior to 807's last flight a tech did not properly torque  the fuel reference pressure line hose fitting  which had been disconnected during this maintenance check.  As a result due to aircraft vibration this fuel line fitting worked loose somewhere during the last phase of my flight and fuel pooled between the fuselage and engine.  To give the Starfighter more lift on landing when full flaps are selected, hot compressed air from the last stage of the engine compressor is directed over the flaps.  The temperature of this hot air is 900F.  When I lowered full flaps this hot air probably ignited the fuel air mixture which in turn ruptured other fuel lines.  The explosion probably blew out the first fire but as other fuel lines were ruptured more explosions occured and the fate of the aircraft was sealed .   Witnesses on the ground who were directed to the Starfighter because of the explosions stated there was a large plume of fire at the tail end of the 104.  The aircraft flew for another two nm where it flamed out due to fuel starvation and crashed in an open field. As for my injuries it was caused by either coming in contact with the canopy bow or collision with the seat during man/seat seperation.  The Board found that the "D" ring cable should have been cut as soon as the ejection seat ejector straps function but there was a enough of delay to cause a man/seat collision.  Other-words I was still holding the "D" ring when I was pushed out of the seat and then I could have swung around and made contact with it.  ( I still have the "D" ring and it hangs on the wall in my computer room).  A modification to the timing of the "D" ring cutting was ordered but I have no idea if it was actioned.   Also modes were ordered for the seat pack lanyard and the container for the emergency radio.  Again, I am not aware if this was done too. "

Ralph Harrison,
 November 2005