Air Force Pilot Who Died After Aircraft Ejection Seat Misfire Identified by the Service

A T-6 Texan II from Randolph Air Force Base is parked at Kelly Field, Texas.
A T-6 Texan II from Randolph Air Force Base is parked at Kelly Field, Texas, on Sept. 21, 2023. (2nd Lt. Lauren Niemi/U.S. Air Force photo)

The Air Force on Tuesday identified a training pilot who was killed by an ejection seat misfire at a Texas base.

Capt. John Robertson, an instructor pilot from the 80th Operations Support Squadron at Sheppard Air Force Base, was injured Monday "when the ejection seat of the T-6A Texan II aircraft he was in activated during ground operations," the base said in a statement. He died from his injuries early Tuesday morning.

In a released statement, Col. Mitchell Cok, the acting commander of the 80th Flying Training Wing, praised the work of the maintenance team that "provided life-sustaining care," as well as the security forces, fire and medical members who rushed to help Robertson.

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"Their efforts allowed time for Capt. Robertson's family to be at his side when he passed," Cok said.

Robertson's service information, provided to by the Air Force Personnel Center, shows he was commissioned as an officer from the Air Force Academy and entered active duty on May 30, 2019.

Awards and decorations he received included the Air Force Training Ribbon, the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, the Air Force Longevity Service Award, the National Defense Service Medal and Armed Forces Service Medal, the service said in an emailed statement.

Sheppard Air Force Base said in the news release late Tuesday that an interim safety board investigation into Robertson's death began immediately. An Air Force Safety Investigation Board will start later this week and will eventually release its findings related to the incident.

The 80th Flying Training Wing, which is the parent unit of the 80th Operations Support Squadron, hosts the Euro-NATO Joint Jet Pilot Training Program, which has trained new pilots and allies since the 1980s.

The news of Robertson's death comes roughly two years after the service grounded 76 T-6s and 203 T-38 Talon training aircraft amid quality concerns, including potential defects in the explosive cartridges within their ejection seats.

Robertson's death also follows the emergency landing of a T-6 with the 559th Flying Training Squadron out of Joint Base San Antonio, Texas, last month.

T-6s do not have a long history of deadly incidents or expensive crashes, according to Air Force Safety Center data, with only two pilot fatalities reported since 2004.

"This is a devastating loss for Capt. Robertson's family and loved ones, and for the entire 80th Flying Training Wing," Cok said in the statement. "Capt. Robertson was a highly valued airman and instructor pilot. Our deepest condolences go with all who knew and loved him."

Related: Ejection Seat Misfire Kills Air Force Instructor Pilot at Texas Base

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