High-flier relives the day he shot to fame
THE only pilot to be ejected from an aircraft in the Irish Air Corps flew back in time yesterday.
Ronnie McPartland (69), from Howth, Co Dublin, attended a reunion of retired Air Corps staff who flew and serviced the British jet fighter, the de Havilland Vampire.
Ronnie explained at the celebration in Baldonnel Aerodrome, Co Dublin, that he was just a 20-year-old cadet on May 5, 1961, when a training exercise with Brigadier General Jerry O'Connor went wrong.
He said the aircraft lost control and Brig Gen O'Connor, from Templeogue, Dublin, did his best to stabilise it.
"He was wrestling with the controls and although he was very strong, we were going down, so he pulled a handle which released the canopy on the plane and we were effectively flying open-top in the cockpit."
He added: "I reached down and pulled the ejector handle and I was shot out clear of the plane."
He said Brig Gen O'Connor "would normally have ejected as well, but at the last minute he felt as though he was getting control back. He fought it and got control back because he's a brave man.
"I came down gradually in Co Cavan. That had never been done before and hasn't been done since."
CityJet sponsored a Vampire to fly into Baldonnel yesterday and chief executive Geoffrey O'Byrne White said the aircraft and its staff are part of Irish aviation history.
"It is important to recognise this role by bringing together the old aircraft and those who worked on them together for a reunion," he said.