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Military Lawyers Call For Lessons To Be Learned After Ejector Seat Firm Fined £1.1m Over RAF Pilot’s Death

Red Arrows Pilot Fatally Injured During Pre-Flight Checks


Dave Grimshaw, Press Officer | 0114 274 4397

Specialist military injury lawyers at Irwin Mitchell have called for lessons to be learned after an ejection seat manufacturer was fined £1.1 million following the death of an RAF pilot.

Flt Lt Sean Cunningham, 35, was fatally injured when he was ejected from his Red Arrows jet while conducting pre-flight safety checks.

Following his ejection the parachute on the seat did not deploy.

Martin-Baker Aircraft Ltd was sentenced on Friday at Lincoln Crown Court following the incident which happened at RAF Scampton in 2011. Company director John Martin had previously pleaded guilty to breaching health and safety to charges on behalf of the Uxbridge-based company.

Expert Opinion
While our service personnel know the risks associated with their roles, particularly in combat, they should not have their lives put at risk while carrying out pre-flight safety checks on the ground in a non-combat environment.

“This model of ejector seat was in operation for many years, not only in Hawk aircraft but also in Tornado fighter jets, meaning a significant number of pilots were potentially exposed to serious harm over a number of years.

“That action was not taken over the period to address this risk to serious injury, or even death, is extremely worrying.

“It vital that the Ministry of Defence and all manufacturers and suppliers to our forces take the necessary steps to ensure the safety of service personnel so others don’t suffer needlessly in future. There is no excuse for members of the Armed Forces not to be provided with the most appropriate equipment and training, regardless of what their role is.”
Geraldine McCool, Partner

The court had previously heard that the circumstances that lead to Flt Lt Cunningham’s death were a one in 100 year occurrence, according to the Ministry of Defence.

However, sentencing Mrs Justice Carr said the incident was "an entirely preventable tragedy".

Martin-Baker Aircraft had pleaded guilty to failing to ensure the safety of non-employees in connection with Flt Lt Cunningham’s death.

Read more about Irwin Mitchell's expertise in handling military injury cases.