Aviation expert breaks down what pilots are thinking when they’re about to crash

“It’s a little dicier to eject over the water."

Aviation expert breaks down what pilots are thinking when they’re about to crash
An aviation expert details what the pilot may have been thinking moments before ejecting from a fighter jet. (Image: Nedra Muir-Lowery)

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Following a fighter jet crash off Oahu Wednesday afternoon, an aviation expert details what the 47-year-old pilot may have been thinking before he ejected from the aircraft.

Aviation Expert Peter Forman says pilots think over possible flight failures and the minimum altitude they are willing to eject at prior to taking off.

Forman says the pilot, Matt Pothier, presumably had a pretty good number in his head and was thinking “If I get down to this altitude [and] I still have problems with the jet, I’m ejecting at that point.”

Therefore, when pilots make that final, crucial decision to bail out of the aircraft, it’s not just a split-second decision.

“It is a lot of quick thinking, but on the other hand a lot of thought has gone into it ahead of time," Forman said.

Pothier was participating in the Sentry Aloha war games, which are hosted by the Hawaii Air National Guard, and was seriously injured in the crash.

The fact that Pothier ejected over the water changes the decision-making process as well because it’s a little “more worrisome" than ejecting over land.

“It’s a little dicier to eject over the water because you want to make sure you’re picked up,” Forman said.

Pilots carry electronic locators, which help helicopters to pinpoint them among the waves.

However, Forman does note that there are some safety benefits of landing in the water versus landing in trees or mountains — presumably because it might be a softer landing.

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