As great a plane as the Douglas Skyraider is, It was pretty much a death trap for pilots when the plane was no longer
able to fly. Whether mechanical failure or damage from enemy fire, the plane could only stand so much damage before
it no longer could be controlled and was out of control.
Under those circumstances, the only
recourse available to the pilot was to exit the plane and parachute to the ground. Unfortunately, that required unbuckling
the pilot's harness, sliding back the overhead canopy, crawling out of the cockpit and diving over the side of the plane,
trying to avoid the horizontal stabilizer on the tail as it passed by.
By 1966, almost all single
engine jet planes in the Navy were equipped with ejection seats. They could be deployed at very low levels to eject
the pilot high enough above the airplane to avoid any flames and to safely deploy a life saving parachute.
Skyraider was never manufactured with an ejection seat. However, by 1966 some Navy Skyraiders were being retrofitted
with ejection seats in an effort to mitigate the high loses of Skyraider pilots in Vietnam. But it was a halfhearted
effort as the fate the Skyraider as a Navy plane had been decided and planes were being transferred to the South Vietnamese
air force as Navy units were transitioning to jet powered planes.
Before Jack left for Vietnam in
1966 I talked to him about the lack of ejection seat on the plane. By that time he had been flying this aircraft for
over 8 years and loved to fly the plant. He told me that he would be happy to have an ejection seat in the plane, but
did not expect that to happen, so he prepared himself as best he could for the possibility of having to bail out.