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Flt Lt Sean Cunningham Inquest Red Arrows Ejection Seat Failure

Red Arrow

In January 2014 the Inquest into the death of Flt Lt Sean Cunningham, took place in Lincoln. Flt Lt Cunningham, 35, was killed at RAF Scampton in Lincolnshire on 8 November 2011 after he was ejected from his Hawk T1 aircraft while it was on the ground.

The family were represented by IM, with a joint team of Keith Barrett from the Aviation department, along with assistance from Geraldine McCool and Alexander Davenport from the Military Injury Claims Team.

The Inquest focused on how Flt Lt Cunningham died and the events that led to his death. A vast amount of scrutiny was placed upon the ejection seat makers, Martin-Baker as well as the MoD and BAE Systems.

The Coroner heard from various witnesses during the three week Inquest, ranging from Red Arrow Pilots and Engineers, serving MoD officers, Martin-Baker Personnel and BAE system engineers.

The Inquest established that the cause of the accident was the over-tightening of a bolt meaning that the seats parachute could not deploy following ejection. Martin-Baker had been aware of the over-tightening of this bolt prior to the event but had failed, for reasons that were not clear, to inform the MoD of danger.

Flt Lt Cunningham’s family was keen not only to establish the cause of his tragic death but to identify safety lessons for the future. The Coroner was interested both in the design of the seat, firing handle and straps and also the method of communication whereby vital safety issues were sent by Martin-Baker to their purchasing Air Fleets.

Keith Barrett was able to obtain from the Coroner the ruling that Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights applied to the Inquest allowing for a wide-ranging enquiry into safety.

Key Contact

Geraldine McCool