First veteran to eject out of a plane in a pressurized suit re-lives memories at Tyndall

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TYNDALL AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) - For this Air Force veteran, Friday was a flight down memory lane.

"Flying at approximately 70,000 feet at more than three times the speed of sound," said Air Force Veteran Stephen Damer.

In the early 1970s, Damer was an F-106 fighter pilot, which was the Air Force's workhorse in the Vietnam era.

To fly the aircraft at such extreme speeds called for extreme protection.

"We wore a full pressure suit, which you see, like, space shuttle guys wear with the glass dome and the multiple-layered suit that is pressurized, in case we lose pressure in the cockpit," said Damer.

That suit was very helpful for him when his engine gave out during a practice missile interception over the Gulf in 1975.

"We made the intercept but it cost us an airplane, the engine overheated that day and [I] had to jump out of it," said Damer.

He and another pilot completed the original mission that day, and Damer wound up making history.

"I was the first full pressure suit successful ejection the Air Force had ever had," said Damer.

Friday he re-lived his story while touring a base he once called home.

"It still looks the same, some of the buildings are still there and bring back memories and other things have changed," he said.

There may be a few more buildings on the base now, but that doesn't prevent this veteran from reminiscing; especially the crash.

"This really did happen, you know? Here I am sitting in the Gulf of Mexico sitting on a life raft and a plane just went in somewhere, it was a lot of, 'Did this really happen?' for quite a while," said Damer.

After serving eight years in the Air Force, Damer later went on to pursue a flying career with American Airlines where he stayed for 21 years.