An IDC Report

On the occasion of Air Force Day 2003, we focus attention on the profile of a private company 末 Martin-Baker 末 which manufactures aircraft ejection seats. Backed by 55 years of experience, Martin-Baker seats have saved 7000 aircrew lives to date in 92 Air Forces around the world. Martin-Baker has headquarters in Denham (England) and locations in France, Italy, and the United States.


New Delhi, 08 October 2003

The IAF this year showed off all its air power and prowess at Palam on 07 Oct 2003 to mark its 71st Anniversary. On show were the newly acquired IL 78 air refuellers 末 with probe and drogue fuelling that can increase the range of say SU 30MKIs to 3000 miles 末 well into Africa, China or SE Asia and Middle East. Quite a capability!  We offer our congratulations to the officers and airmen of the IAF on their anniversary and our condolences to those valiant ones who lost their lives in the service of the nation.

On 11 June 2003, Lt Cdr Robert Schwab RN was conducting an air test in a Royal Navy Sea Harrier FA2 off the coast of Devon in England at 28,000 ft. His aircraft became uncontrollable and went into a spin. As the aircraft descended to 10,000 ft, while continuing to spin, Schwab had to eject from the aircraft using his Martin-Baker Mk 10 H ejection seat. He was rescued from the sea uninjured. The saving of a life is always welcome news 末 and legendary manufacturer Martin-Baker痴 highly-effective ejection seat had just saved the life of the 7000th combat aircraft pilot 末 a list which includes 174 Indians.

That was the second time in his flying career that Schwab had been saved by a Martin-Baker ejection seat. Way back in 1984, he had to eject from a Hawk trainer, which had suffered a landing gear collapse and was sliding along the ground.

Nearer home we have the case of Lt Cdr Peter D達rass an ace navy pilot who ejected from his SEAHAWK from under the sea, when his aircraft got cold launched from aircraft carrier INS Vikrant, due to failure of the steam catapult. He went on to become a Rear Admiral and now lives in Goa after retirement. Ten other Indian pilots lives had been saved by Martin Baker ejection seats and the LCA and the IJT are expected to have these excellent seats. The Jaguar, Mirage and the Sea Harrier aircraft already have these seats and the 66 British Hawk 115 that the IAF will get will also have Martin Baker seats. It is a tribute to the private company has done so well. (The Russian aircraft have slightly heavier, more cumbersome but equally reliable ejection seats.)  

Martin-Baker痴 Joint Managing Directors, John and James Martin, twin sons of the company痴 founder Sir James Martin, expressed their delight on hearing the news of the safe landmark ejection of Lt Cdr Schwab. Commenting on that event, James Martin said, 典he entire workforce is immensely proud that the ejection seats which they produce have safely returned so many aviators to their families. During 55 years of continuous ejection seat manufacture, we have supplied over 92 air forces, and produced 70,000 ejection seats. We never lose sight of the fact that one in ten of the ejection seats that we manufacture will be used to save a life. It must have been a very satisfying thought for every one at Martin-Baker that fully ten per cent of their ejection seats have saved human lives.

Commenting on the earlier landmark life-saving ejections with their seats, Martin-Baker point out that the five-hundredth life had been saved following an ejection from a US Navy Grumman F9F-8 Cougar in a Martin-Baker MkZ5 seat way back in 1961. The thousandth life was saved just four years later, using a Type 4D Mk2 seat, from a carrier-borne de Havilland DH110 Sea Vixen of the Royal Navy.

The two-thousandth life-saving event came in 1968, with an ejection from a Grumman OV-1 Mohawk with a Mk J5 seat. It was followed by the saving of the three-thousandth life following an ejection from a McDonnell F-4 Phantom in a Km H7AF seat.

Interestingly, the four-thousandth life to be saved was that of an Indian Air Force pilot. He was flying a de Havilland Vampire of an IAF training squadron, and had ejected using his T Mk/Type 3 B seat. Talking to International Aerospace Air Show Daily at Aero India 2003, Andrew Martin, Business Development Manager of Martin Baker, and grandson of the founder, had said that since the establishment of business relations with India way back in 1968, they had supplied more than 4,500 ejection seats of all types. Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) had assembled more than 1000 of these. Currently, HAL assemble the Mk9 seat for the IAF痴 Jaguars. Martin-Baker seats have saved the lives of 174 Indian airmen over the years. Most recently, India have ordered Km IN 10LG seats for the first four LCAs (TD-1, TD-2, PV 1 and PV 2), and Mk IN 16G ejection seats for limited series production LCAs. A decision on seats for production LCAs is awaited (See also International Aerospace vol 4 no 2 pg 20).

To continue the story where we left off, the five-thousandth life was saved in 1983 when a pilot used his Martin-Baker Mk IQ7A to escape from a F-104S Starfighter. The six-thousandth successful ejection occurred another 7 years later, in 1990, in a Mk GRUE A7 seat from a Grumman EA-6B Prowler. The seven-thousandth even was to occur only 13 years later. The increasingly longer interval over which each succeeding thousand successful ejections occurred could be due to the higher levels of reliability and much lower failure rates that today痴 combat aircraft offer.

Martin-Baker justifiably claim to be 鍍he world痴 longest established and most experienced manufacturer of ejection seats and related equipment that safeguards the aviator throughout the escape, survival, location and recovery phases.

The company has pioneered ejection seat development since 1944. Just 2 years later, they had conducted the first live demonstration ejection from a specially converted Gloster Meteor fighter. On 30 May 1969, test pilot J.O. Lancaster, now retired, became the very first airman to make an emergency ejection, using a Martin-Baker seat, from an Armstrong Whitworth AW 52 flying wing experimental aircraft.

In the subsequent 54 years of ejection seat development, Martin-Baker had continued to lead the world in ejection seat technology. They introduced numerous advances in crew safety to offer combat aircraft aircrew 鍍he very best chance of survival when forced to abandon their aircraft.

The most recent Martin-Baker ejection seat designs have an on-board electronic sequencer that automatically senses various factors such as speed and altitude to optimize control of the operation of a seat. It times the opening of the parachute, as one example, to occur after the pilot has had a free fall to a lower altitude, where the atmosphere and temperature would be more conducive to his survival. As a result, emergency ejections have been made under conditions ranging from ground level to the highest altitude of 57,000 ft. The aircraft speeds at which ejections occurred have varied from standstill to over 800 mph 末 well beyond the speed of sound.

Martin-Baker痴 latest product is the Mk 16 ejection seat family. These have been competitively selected for the Raytheon T-6A, Korean Aerospace Industries KT-1 and T-50, Pilatus PC-21, Northrop F-5 and T-38, Alenia Aermacchi M-346, Dassault Rafale and the Eurofighter Typhoon.

The company is now working on a next-generation ejection seat for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter for service with the United States, United Kingdom and other customers. It is expected to share that aircraft痴 very large anticipated production run. Martin-Baker expect their new seats to establish 殿n even higher safety benchmark for the next-generation of pilots.

Disclaimer   Copyright