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TO THE APPLAUSE OF BATMAN AND SUPERMAN

Most retirement gifts organised by work colleagues are memorable for all the right reasons. However, there are some departure gifts that for all the wrong reasons are best forgotten. Sadly, we remember them forever as long as forever lasts.

This is what happened to a senior gentleman in France, who was gifted a surprise-surprise test flight at one of the country’s airbases.

Thrilled to bits, the delighted retiree was appropriately attired for the flight ahead. Nervously, the man was helped up the ladder to the jet’s canopy-covered cockpit reserved for pilot and co-pilot.

Regrettably, soon after take-off, the 64-year-old man unintentionally ejected himself while flying in the Dassault Rafale jet. At the time of his quick exit, the jet was travelling at over 500km/h (320mph) and was flying at an altitude of 760 metres (2,500 feet).

According to reports, the force of the fighter jet’s take-off caused the man to instinctively bolt upright. As the luckless passenger did so, he carelessly grabbed the jet’s ejection lever to steady himself.

Spectacular fail! As he did so, the co-pilot’s canopy snapped open. The ill-fated passenger then shot out of the aircraft in a spectacular display that would have earned a round of applause from Batman and Superman.

Sadly, one failure was not enough. Caught up in the excitement of experiencing his first flight in a fighter jet, the unwitting co-pilot had also failed to securely attach his helmet, losing it mid-air, which worsened his situation to near critical.

According to investigators, as he boarded the aircraft, ‘his heart was in full tachycardia’, ranging from 136 to 142 beats per minute even before the incident. All things being equal, the ill-fated passenger was a little unprepared for the take-off.

The unfortunate passenger’s parachute, however, saved his life. The man managed to land without sustaining any serious injuries. He was taken to the hospital afterwards. The pilot also avoided a catastrophe, finishing the flight safely.

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The man did not plan the flight himself. Employees of his firm arranged it as a nice surprise birthday gift. They organised the send-off with aircraftsmen based at the Saint-Dizier Airbase. It never occurred to anyone to ask the fighter jet pilot where he thought his passenger had disappeared to.

Schadenfreude is a German term that translates into deriving humour from another man’s misfortune. I am sure no one reading this story is experiencing Schadenfreude.

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