A Manufacturer of ejector seats has admitted breaching health and safety law over the death of a Red Arrows Pilot.
35-year-old Flt Lt Sean Cunningham was fired around 300ft from his cockpit whilst the jet was stationary in November 2011. The incident occurred at RAF Scampton in Lincolnshire.
The Iraq War Veteran was shot into the air when his seat ejected during pre-flight checks. The parachute did not deploy, and consequently he suffered fatal injuries from his fall.
It emerged during the inquest into his death in 2014 that the ejection seat firing handle had been left in an unsafe position, meaning it could accidentally activate the seat. It is thought that this was caused by one of Flt Lt Cunningham’s seat straps pulling it into this position on a sortie four days earlier. It was also found that Flt Ltd Cunningham’s parachute failed to deploy because a nut and bolt had been fastened too tightly.
Coroner Stuart Fisher described the seats’ safety mechanism as “entirely useless” and criticised the company for failing to warn the RAF about safety issues.
The Crown Prosecution Service considered possible manslaughter charges but said there was insufficient evidence.
However, the HSE announced in September 2016 it intended to prosecute Martin-Baker Aircraft. In January 2017, the firm was charged with breaching Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and in May, Martin-Baker Aircraft Ltd initially pleaded not guilty.
This month, Company Director, John Martin, pleaded guilty to charges on behalf of the company. In a statement issued by the firm after entering the guilty plea, it said: “It should be noted that this was an isolated failure relating to the tightening of a nut during maintenance procedures conducted by RAF Aerobatic Team mechanics.”
It added its ejection seats were in use by 92 air forces and had saved 7,059 lives over the past 73 years.
The firm is due to be sentenced on the 12th February 2018.