Martin-Baker, when the buoy is punctured ...

(To Stefano Marras)
12/04/19

Rarely when we talk about military aircraft we refer to ejection seats. Technical skills of combat and comparisons with other aircraft are the main topics. The reason for this issue is in fact mainly due to the low level of fatalities or accidents caused by seat malfunctions. However, although rare, even these kinds of accidents sometimes occur, thus raising doubts and questions about pilots' safety.

The most recent case took place at the Saint Dizier-Robsinson air base in France on March 20 when a civilian of the age of 64 years was thrown out of the cockpit of a Rafale B during take-off. The man, invited to an "observation flight" as often happens to journalists or other prominent public figures is not life threatening but has nevertheless suffered serious back injuries, while the pilot managed to land safely immediately afterwards. It is not yet clear whether the man has accidentally pulled the ejection lever of the seat or if there has been any technical problem. However, three investigations have been opened in order to clarify the dynamics, while for security reasons, part of the Gust it was kept on the ground until 28 in March.

A similar incident occurred in the 2011 in the United Kingdom, at the Scampton air base, when the Lieutenant of the Red Arrows (the British Air Force aerobatic team) Sean Cunningham, after being thrown from the cockpit of a Hawk T1 during a test flight, he crashed to the ground due to the failed activation of the parachute, dying shortly afterwards in the hospital from his injuries. subsequently in the 2018, after a series of investigations, the company Martin-Baker, builder of the ejection seat, pleaded guilty to the pilot's death for breaking safety rules, paying the sum of 550,000 pounds.

However, these are isolated cases and the causes of the accident in France are still to be clarified. For its part, Martin-Baker, the manufacturer of the ejected seats used both from Gust that the Hawk T1 has an impressive record of performance and safety levels. With over 70 years of history, the company boasts of having saved over 7500 lives. Managed by the descendants of the founders Sir James Martin, an Irish immigrant and aircraft manufacturer, and the Royal Air Force captain pilot Valentine Baker, the company currently holds about 53% of the market in question, with over 17.000 seats in use on 54 several aircraft related to dozens of nations. And the forecasts see these numbers on the upside. A leading company at a global level, therefore, with a safety record that is more than positive, but nevertheless sees the immense responsibility assigned to guarantee the safety and rescue of pilots' lives in the event of an emergency.

Undiscovered topics that would require more attention?

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