WATCH: Fighter Pilot Recounts Surviving Ejection at Mach 1.2

June 22, 2022Mac Caltrider
Fighter pilot

Capt. Udell spent four harrowing hours lost at sea after ejecting from his F-15 Strike Eagle. Composite by Coffee or Die Magazine.

Floating in icy 5-foot swells, Air Force Capt. Brian Udell realized that he was probably going to die. Bloodied and broken, he managed to pull himself into a one-man inflatable raft with his one working arm before any sharks could arrive. He’d just ejected from his F-15 Strike Eagle at night while going Mach 1.2 and parachuted into the Atlantic Ocean.

“Had I waited one-third of a second longer to pull the handles, I would have impacted the water still in my seat,” Udell told Black Rifle Coffee Company in a recent interview.  

Fighting off hypothermia and shock, Udell did everything he could to stay awake, knowing that even a short rest could be fatal. He spent hours enduring rough seas and doing mental gymnastics to keep from nodding off. 

“Daytime in the open ocean, calm seas, sun angle just right, there’s like a 74% chance that they can find you,” Udell said. “At night, that drops to about zero.”

After the longest four hours of his life, Coast Guard rescuers finally located Udell drifting alone in the dark water, 60 miles off the coast of North Carolina. The former fighter pilot now flies commercial airlines, but he still holds the record for surviving the highest-speed ejection from a fighter aircraft.

Read Next: 5 Things You Probably Didn’t Know: ‘Black Hawk Down’

Mac Caltrider
Mac Caltrider

Mac Caltrider is a senior staff writer for Coffee or Die Magazine. He served in the US Marine Corps and is a former police officer. Caltrider earned his bachelor’s degree in history and now reads anything he can get his hands on. He is also the creator of Pipes & Pages, a site intended to increase readership among enlisted troops. Caltrider spends most of his time reading, writing, and waging a one-man war against premature hair loss.

More from Coffee or Die Magazine
How the Bazooka Gained Infamy as a Tank-Buster

Named after a musical instrument, the Bazooka proved to be a highly effective weapon for American troops, including one maverick pilot, throughout multiple wars.

Secretary of the Air Force Frank Kendall (center) delivers testimony during a House Appropriations Committee hearing in the Capitol Building, Washington, D.C.
Home to Glenn, Armstrong, Wrights Perfect Spot for Space Command HQ, Ohio Lawmakers Say

Ohio lawmakers pitch their state as the new location for Space Command headquarters.

Soflete: How This Veteran-Led Company is Changing Military Fitness Culture

In 2014, Soflete’s co-founders saw workout overkill hurting their peers as they prepared for selecti...

glock 19
Glock 19: Origin Story of a Legendary Pistol

Get to know the Glock 19 — how it works, who uses it, and why it’s one of the most popular handguns in the US.

afghan soldier asylum
Afghan Soldier Who Helped US Weathers Injuries, Uncertainty in Asylum Bid

Afghan soldier who assisted the U.S. now faces uncertainty in bid for asylum.

The Dirty Dozen
‘The Dirty Dozen’: Meet D-Day’s Real Rogue Commandos

The Dirty Dozen was based on a real team of rule-breaking elite paratroopers who jumped into France ahead of D-Day.

d-day 79th anniversary
Normandy Marks D-Day's 79th Anniversary, Honors World War II Veterans

This year's D-Day tribute to the young soldiers who died in Normandy is not only a chance to honor t...

  • About Us
  • Privacy Policy
  • Careers
Contact Us
  • Request a Correction
  • Write for Us
  • General Inquiries
© 2023 Coffee or Die Magazine. All Rights Reserved