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United States Air Force 3599 TNG SQDN

F-86F Sabre


Friday 13th November 1953
1:30 pm


2/LT Kenneth  S. Vernon


Friday 13th


Superstitious people might avert any dangerous activity on Friday 13th. For 25 year old 2/LT Kenneth  S. Vernon USAF of the 3599th Training Squadron, flying a borrowed North American F-86F Sabre it was a normal training exercise similar to many others he had conducted.


Over 50 years ago, Ken, Based at Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada, lifted his F-86 Sabre from the runway on a clear Friday afternoon.


Ken explains,

"The squadron didn't have enough aircraft so they got one from another squadron. This was my last flight for the gunnery program. When I got to my plane it had drop tanks and only the left tank had fuel. I had a slight problem getting airborne with this configuration. We went and dropped practice bombs, straffed and to the air to air area for dog fighting."

"In one of those fights is when the plane went into a spin. Had it stopped for a moment heading straight down, came back on the stick and it snapped and spun the other way. This is when I decided to get out."

"The F-86 canopy when jettisoned  comes straight back at you. You are supposed to drop your head down etc. but in a spin I was all over the cockpit. The aircraft crashed on one side of a mountain. I could hear people telling me get out, get out."

At 8,000 feet and travelling at over 200 mph, and travelling straight down with no other options open to him Ken ejected over slightly hilly and rocky terrain.

"The plane was in a spin and I was thrown to the left side of cockpit and couldn't reach the eject handle. I had to fight to get back in seat and reach for eject handle. First I jettisoned the canopy, then pulling up the trigger on the seat arm I initated the ejection seat."


"Things didn't go as expected. While ejecting the canopy hit my helmet causing a head injury, both elbows sustained deep cuts from the canopy rails, compression fracture of the 12th vertebra this could of been since I was sitting on a 2-3 inch cushion. All this was happening while in a spin."

Unlike many others who had ejected Ken did not  experience any temporal distortion where time appears to slow down.

"No one saw me eject. The emergency procedures had been drilled into us and everything was okay until I tried to find the D ring and it wasn't  where it was supposed to be. It was up higher up over my shoulder."

The orange and white panels of the parachute billowed out above his head slowling his descent.

"I remember coming down and it was so quiet, landed and spread out my chute and sat in the middle of the chute. My head hurt and my arms. I got out my survival kit mirror and waited. About 1-2 hours passed and a T-6 was diving down at the crash site, as he came up from the other side of the mountain I used my signal mirror and he spotted me flew by and wagged his wings and off he went.

Next came the helo with a flight surgeon and I  was flown back to Nellis AFB. On the way back I slumped over from the back injury etc."

February 2007


       I would like to express my appreciation to Ken Vernon for his permission to include his ejection details.

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