When Pants Attack: A Cautionary Tale of G Suits and Planes

You may or may not have read reports last week about a Swedish fighter jet crashing in the Arctic Circle. So far, so what, you're probably saying—after all, there were no fatalities. And so began the questions. What caused the accident&madash;was it pilot error? The wrong kind of snow? Maybe a flock of seagulls flew into the engines. Well, with those haircuts, it was a miracle the pilot survived...

A week on, we have our answer. Swedish Airforce investigators have concluded that the incident was all down to a problem with the pilot's hi-tech pants. Find out what led to the pilot saying "Sayonara cockpit" and "Hello parachute canopy" after the jump.

The pilot was wearing a standard air-force-issue G-suit, also known as Speed Jeans, inflatable pants which blow up as the G-Forces increase during high-energy movements. These blow-up trousers squeeze the pilot's legs, thus preventing blackouts, tunnel vision and, I suppose, impure thoughts about that hot chick with the ear protectors and neon lollipops who's been waving him into the hanger this past month.

What the investigators think happened is that the pants, in their aerated state, nudged against the ejector button and caused the pilot to whoosh-boom outtathere before he could even say, "Mälmø, we have a problem." It seems that fingers are being pointed at the trousers. "When subjected to large forces the suit fills with air," said Mats Helgesson of Central Command. "This is thought to have affected the ejector switch."

Now, Justin Timberlake's people might have called Janet Jackson's nipple-slippage during that Super Bowl performance a "wardrobe malfunction." If that was a wardrobe malfunction, then exploding strides leading to a high-speed fighter jet having carnal relations with the ground are verily (I say unto thee) a wardrobe atrocity. For the moment, the Swedish air force has restricted the newest-gen Gripens, whose pilots wear the wrong pants, to a paltry maximum 3g. Older models (and pants) are, apparently, not affected.

Defective automatic trousers hurl pilot from plane [The Register]