“I was the pilot of a U.S. Navy F-4S Phantom B/N 155836, operating out of NAS Dallas, TX on 30 April 1985. The section takeoff was uneventful up until approximately 400’AGL, about the time the gear and flaps were up and I came out of burner. At that time, I felt an explosion behind me and simultaneously, saw a huge ball of fire come out of the left engine intake, between me and my lead. Pulling away from the lead, I looked inside to see every fire/overheat light installed in the airplane was illuminated. Looking in my rearview mirrors revealed a fireball that hid everything aft. My lead was calling over the radio, for me to eject. At this point, I grabbed the lower ejection handle and started to pull upward. Prior to activating the seat by pulling, I had the notion that I was over a subdivision of many houses and upon looking down, the thought was confirmed. I made the decision to return to NAS Dallas and told the RIO to switch back to tower and inform them that we were an emergency A/C and were returning to the field.
Commencing a turn to the left I started dumping fuel and considered jettisoning the drop tank but decided against it due to the houses below. The A/C was marginally controllable and as a result, it took all my efforts to keep it upright. This fact convinced me that I would die if I continued with the idea of a landing. Looking south, I saw open space that would lessen the chance of hitting a house and I headed towards it. At about this time, the plane became completely uncontrollable, started a violent nose down pitch of about 2 negative Gs and a rapid roll to the right. I yelled to the RIO. “I’ve lost it….EJECT, EJECT, EJECT!” He didn’t. I tried for the upper ejection handle but was unable to get it due to the negative G and my seat position. The lower handle was also unreachable due to this fact. I then grabbed the canopy bow handle and pushed myself down and back enough to get to the lower handle. My RIO went first and me in sequence. My ejection occurred at around 600’AGL, 30 degrees nose down, and 150 degrees right wing down. My chute opened at about 20′ above the ground, with one good swing. Martin-Baker had saved me and my RIO.
I am alive today because the Martin-Baker seat works better than advertised, as I was out of the accepted envelope. Thank you Martin-Baker for the last 33 years that I wouldn’t have had without your wonderful product!”
LCDR Anthony L. Cook USNR PIC, Ejectee #4083