Ejection seat firm in court over Red Arrows’ pilot’s death

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Undated handout photo issued by the Ministry of Defence of Iraq War veteran Flight Lieutenant Sean Cunningham, 34, who died after being ejected from his aircraft on the runway at RAF Scampton in Lincolnshire. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Issue date: Wednesday November 9, 2011. See PA story DEFENCE RedArrow. Photo credit should read: Ministry of Defence Crown Copyright/PA Wire NOTE TO EDITORS: This handout photo may only be used in for editorial reporting purposes for the contemporaneous illustration of events, things or the people in the image or facts mentioned in the caption. Reuse of the picture may require further permission from the copyright holder.
BEST QUALITY AVAILABLE: Undated handout photo issued by the Ministry of Defence of Iraq War veteran Flight Lieutenant Sean Cunningham, 34, who died after being ejected from his aircraft on the runway at RAF Scampton in Lincolnshire. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Issue date: Wednesday November 9, 2011. See PA story DEFENCE RedArrow. Photo credit should read: Ministry of Defence Crown Copyright/PA Wire NOTE TO EDITORS: This handout photo may only be used in for editorial reporting purposes for the contemporaneous illustration of events, things or the people in the image or facts mentioned in the caption. Reuse of the picture may require further permission from the copyright holder.

An ejection seat manufacturer has appeared in court charged with a breach of health and safety regulations following the death of a Red Arrows pilot at an airfield near Gainsborough.

Flt Lt Sean Cunningham,aged 35, died in November 2011 after he was thrown 300 feet into the air when his ejection seat activated while he was carrying out pre-flight checks on his Hawk jet at the display team’s base at RAF Scampton.

Martin Baker Aircraft Company Ltd is accused of a breachof the 1974 Health and Safety at Work Act on or before November 8, 2011.

The company is accused of failing to conduct its undertaking in relation to the design, manufacture, supply and support of the Mark 10b ejection seat in a way that did not expose non-employees to risk.

The prosecution has been brought by the Health and Safety Executive.

At the hearing, Christopher Morrison , representing the company, gave no indication of plea.

Members of Flt Lt Cunningham’s family sat in the public gallery during the 10-minute hearing in which Lincoln magistrates committed the case to Lincoln Crown Court.

The company is scheduled to appear at the crown court on Friday, February 17 for a plea and trial preparation hearing.

The parachute on Flt Lt Cunningham’s ejection seat did not deploy and he plummeted back down to earth still strapped into the seat.

He suffered multiple injuries and was airlifted to hospital but was pronounced dead within an hour.

Flt Lt Cunningham, who was from Coventry, had just completed his first season with the Arrows and held the position of Red 5 in the formation team at the time of his death.

He was the second member of the team to die tragically within three months following the loss of Flt Lt Jon Egging whose Hawk jet crashed during a display at an airshow in Dorset.