Drone Pilot Ejects From Office Chair
FARGO, ND (The Global Edition)–When an electrical fire disabled Colonel Doyle VanWatermulen’s Predator drone, the 65-year old veteran pilot exclaimed “Mayday! Mayday! We’re going down! We’re going down!” while sitting at his cubicle, sources close to his office confirmed.
Witnesses stated VanWatermulen began violently pulling and pushing the various ergonomic levers under his seat in an apparent attempt to “eject” himself. Unable to trigger an ejection, the pilot called out ”Jammed! I’m outta here!” and rolled from his chair.
“Oh, right,” he said after hitting the concrete floor at the North Dakota Air National Guard Station in Fargo, ND. His then un-piloted drone, armed with two Hellfire missiles, reportedly crashed into an Afghanistan hillside some 6,741 miles away.
Meanwhile Air Force officials have been at a loss to explain the pilot’s bizarre behavior. However, one drone crew member, who wished to remain anonymous, said there were some early warning signs, “We should have suspected a problem when he [VanWatermulen] showed up for the mission in a lambskin leather bomber jacket and helmet.”
The Air Force later issued a statement admitting that VanWatermulen was part of a new program dubbed “Balding Eagle,” utilizing seasoned military airmen to fill the government’s growing need for drone pilots.
The program has come under intense scrutiny following the incident. Concern has mounted that similar events might occur with other aging pilots.
Defenders of the program argue this isolated case must not be used to bar all older pilots from flying unmanned drones. In an article appearing in next month’s AARP Magazine titled “The Baby Boom Bombers,” author Christine Timmel argues that “With key accommodations such as post-it note reminders and fun brain teasers, aging pilots can continue leading successful Predator drone attacks.”
VanWatermulen is currently being treated for a broken right hip. No word yet from the Air Force as to when VanWatermulen will return to work.
By TGE correspondent Jess McLain