An ejector seat firm has admitted breaching health and safety laws over the death of a Red Arrows pilot. Flt Lt Sean Cunningham, 35, was ejected from his Hawk T1 jet while it was on the ground at RAF Scampton in 2011. The parachute on the seat did not deploy and the South African-born airman was fatally injured. Martin-Baker Aircraft Ltd has pleaded guilty at Lincoln Crown Court to breaching Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974. Company director John Martin entered the plea on behalf of the Uxbridge-based company. An inquest into Flt Lt Cunningham's death heard he was fired 300ft up into the air before he hit the ground with "tremendous" force. He had been carrying out pre-flight safety checks when the seat fired. It emerged during the hearing in 2014 that the ejector seat firing handle had been left in an unsafe position meaning it could accidentally activate the seat. It is thought that one of Flt Lt Cunningham's seat straps had pulled it into this unsafe position on a sortie four days earlier. Flt Lt Cunningham's parachute failed to deploy because a nut and bolt had been fastened too tightly. Martin-Baker had been aware of the possibility of the parachute mechanism jamming as early as 1990, the inquest was told. Coroner Stuart Fisher described the seats' safety mechanism as “entirely useless” and criticised the company for failing to warn the RAF about safety issues.
Original article by BBC