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SAFB Says Ejection Seat Saved Pilots Lives in Friday Jet Crash

<font size="2"><p>Seat belts are known to save lives.</p> <p>However, when it comes to military pilots-- the ejection seat is what makes the difference between life and death.</p> <p>And as Mechell Dixon reports, an new ejection seat is why two pilots are alive today following last week's jet crash.</p></font>

The crash happened last Friday morning here off Horton Road in East Wichita County and it took place just a few hundred yards from Sheppard Air Force Bases' Mobile Command Center.

Since then, base officials have been investigating the crash.

While the T-38 is destroyed the two pilots on board are alive and well.

And Sheppard officials say it's all thanks to intense pilot training and a safer ejection seat.

When a T-38 talon from Sheppard Air Force Base went down Friday morning shortly after takeoff, remarkably the student and instructor pilot onboard suffered only minor injuries.

Base officials say their seat is what saved their lives.

"This is the Martin Baker ejection seat," explains Capt. Chris Lowry a flight commander with the 80th Operations Support Squadron.

Crews started putting them in Sheppard's T-38 jets about two years ago because they take safety to higher level.

"Previously in the Legacy seat, the pilots had to pull the handle one at a time and coordinate with each other and in a life, critical moment, that coordination may be very difficult," Capt. Lowry says.

It happened in 2008 when a student and instructor pilot died after their T-38 stalled at a low altitude forcing them to eject.

Even though both pulled the lever at the same time, officials say their seats collided and both died when their seats hit the ground.

It takes the Legacy seat four seconds to eject a pilot in distress, but for the new one, it only takes two and a half seconds.

But this new seat also has an added safety bonus.

"There's a system in place where whoever pulls the handle, the seats are gonna sequence so the rear cockpit is gonna go out first followed by a short delay then the front cockpit will go. That ensures that there's clearance between the two pilots as they exit the aircraft," Capt. Lowry explains.

Capt. Lowry says although this high-tech seat can save lives, students receive lots of training on them, how to properly strap themselves in and how to land as they parachute to the ground.

They're all techniques that instructors say when used properly with this seat will allow a pilot to live and fly another day.

Sheppard has 124 T-38's.

All but two have the upgraded seat.

But tomorrow, installation will begin on those final two jets, which is great, since Sheppard resumed flights on its fleet of T-38 jets yesterday.

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