By on May 5, 2016


With the exception of intercepting tornadoes (and maybe mudding), this is about as much fun as you can have with a mid-1990s Dodge Ram pickup.

Maj. Lonny Handwork, who serves with the Royal Canadian Air Force, gets to drive the very low-tech testbed for the RCAF’s newest ejection seat. He pulled rank to get behind the wheel, and he’s just tickled by the whole thing.

The first test took place last week on a runway at Canadian Forces Base Cold Lake in northern Alberta, according to the CBC. Pushing the aging Ram flatbed past 85 miles per hour, Handwork triggered the rocket-propelled catapult to launch the seat and its dummy occupant 130 feet into the air.

The successful test was an initiative of Aerospace Engineering Test Establishment, which calls CFB Cold Lake home. Though remote, Cold Lake is Canada’s busiest fighter base, housing a wing of CF-18 Hornet fighter-bombers.

Modern ejection seat tests normally use high-tech (and high-speed) rocket sleds, but this seat isn’t going into the latest supersonic fighter aircraft. It’s being developed for use in the CF-114 Tutor, a former 1960s jet trainer that now serves with the RCAF’s famed Snowbirds (431 Air Demonstration Squadron).

For this kind of test, an old Dodge Ram did just fine.

“I remember as a kid being up on the roof of the barn with a parachute rigged with a black garbage bag with a GI Joe attached to it,” Handwork told the CBC. “This obviously safer, and there’s a lot more engineering going on, but somehow, the principles at the heart of it are the same.

“Just between you and me, I’m a bit of a geek … so I’m very excited.”

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