I Fell 15,000 Feet And Lived

When you have a day in which everything seems to go wrong, remember that one day Cliff Judkins had in 1963. As a member of the Marine All Weather Fighter Squadron 323, Lt. Judkins was piloting his F-8 Crusader jet across the Pacific en route from California to Hawaii on the first leg of his assignment to Atsugi, Japan. He refueled mid-flight, and then everything fell apart. There was an explosion. Fuel spilled all over the plane, which caught fire. Ordered to eject, he found the ejection seat release did not work. The alternate release procedure did not work, either. He knew he had to exit the plane on his own. Then things got worse.

Then I stood up in the seat and put both arms in front of my face. I was sucked out harshly from the airplane. I cringed as I tumbled outside the bird, expecting the tail to cut me in half, but thank goodness, that never happened!     In an instant I knew I was out of there and uninjured.
I waited . . . and waited . . . until my body, hurtling through space, with the 225 knots of momentum started to decelerate. I pulled the D-ring on my parachute, which is the manual way to open the chute if the ejection seat does not work automatically. I braced myself for the opening shock. I heard a loud pop above me, but I was still falling very fast. As I looked up I saw that the small pilot chute had deployed. (This small chute is designed to keep the pilot from tumbling until the main chute opens.) But, I also noticed a sight that made me shiver with disbelief and horror! The main, 24-foot parachute was just flapping in the breeze and was tangled in its own shroud lines. It hadn’t opened! I could see the white folds neatly arranged, fluttering feebly in the air.
“This is very serious,” I thought.

Indeed. Judkins survived the 15,000-foot fall and landed in the Pacific …but he was seriously injured and his survival kit was gone. Read the story of Judkins' fall at the USS Los Angeles website. -via Metafilter

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