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-   -   Martin Baker to be prosecuted over death of Flt Lt. Sean Cunningham (https://www.pprune.org/military-aviation/584971-martin-baker-prosecuted-over-death-flt-lt-sean-cunningham.html)

Timelord 20th Jan 2017 09:04

This is only my recollection but I believe that in the Yeovilton case the SPH had not been inserted at all. When the pilot stood up on the seat he stood on the handle which pivoted around the QRB and fired the seat. In the train of events leading to Sean's accident of course the SPH had seemed to be inserted but wasn't in the right place.

RetiredBA/BY 20th Jan 2017 10:50

Question for Viking, whom I assume is a Hawk QFI:

In my time in the RAF as a QFI, albeit 40 years ago, before we entered the jet the first thing we did was check all seat and canopy pins in place.
Then we kneeled on the seat facing aft and did a thorough seat check, including such vitals as the top latch alignment, attachments of sear pins etc. and correct harness alignment.

It was done on each and every flight, just as we did an external check of the airframe.

Have things changed ?

Bob Viking 20th Jan 2017 15:36

Retired BA/BY
You assume correctly regarding my profession.

Aside from the fact we no longer kneel on the seat to conduct our checks nothing has changed.


overstress 21st Jan 2017 17:43

The existence of position 2 and 3 for the SFH were not known about and neither was the possibility of initiating an ejection with anything other than a vertical pull.
Maybe not known about at the time. As I stated earlier in this thread, this was shown to my course in 1986 by the GS Sergeant instructor, on the seat in the classroom. I clearly remember the demo of the sear pulling out and used to check on every occasion. I subsequently flew Tornado and then Hawk again as an instructor and continued to check. Somewhere along the line the corporate knowledge was lost.

Maybe that ground school lesson wasn't structured and this potential glitch wasn't on a syllabus, maybe it was just that particular tech instructor, and when he moved on his successor didn't know, or failed to teach it. I suppose it's incumbent on those in instructional roles to ensure that lessons are properly structured and that hopefully such potential mistakes are not forgotten, as seems to have been the case here.

Bob Viking:

You may well have been a previous FJ pilot and you may have achieved thousands of hours in them but you weren't a Red Arrows pilot in 2011.
I'm not sure what your argument is. It doesn't matter what role you operate an aircraft in, in this case the Hawk, you could be Red 1-10 or a Unit Test Pilot, the equipment is the same. I hope you're not saying that the RAFAT cannot learn from anyone else other than the RAFAT, or that once you hang up your g-suit, your experience no longer counts?

Slow Biker 21st Jan 2017 22:32

On the units where I served the issue of how the SPH safety pin could be incorrectly fitted was demonstrated in the mandatory six monthly ejection seat lecture for all personnel who entered a cockpit with a seat installed. Of course it is easy to see on the training seat, but a different matter when sitting in the aircraft. There was a campaign to increase the frequency of these lectures; I wouldn't be surprised if today they have ceased altogether.

Bob Viking 21st Jan 2017 22:44

I'm obviously being far too subtle so I shall spell it out. My beef started with post 186.

Retired experts coming onto a thread such as this and criticising a guy who died in an accident and making out that it would never have happened to them because they're far too clever and were taught much better back in their day.

Someone pretty much makes out that Sean's accident was his own fault and I'm the only one who thinks that's out of order?!

If I am the only one then I apologise profusely but I doubt very much that the RAF of yesteryear was any safer then the RAF of today.

That's about as polite and obvious as I can manage.


overstress 22nd Jan 2017 00:24

it would never have happened to them
BV. The point is, it didn't happen to them, or you, or me. But I'm saddened when I see a life lost in a case such as this where continuity of knowledge just might have prevented it.

Perhaps as you are still in the Hawk role, as I was, it's difficult to accept that the viewpoints of others outside may have relevance. One day you will hang up your g-suit but you may find that you never truly 'leave' the F-J world. Will all your experience suddenly become worthless?

Bob Viking 22nd Jan 2017 07:40

It's one thing to have an opinion. Quite another to use an anonymous website to air it for all to read.

The SI has clearly brought out all the lessons and everyone is now well aware of them for the future. I get that some of these lessons were already known about. Saying "I told you so" changes nothing.

You, and others, seem to think I have something against retired guys sharing the benefit of their experience. That is not correct. I do have something against retired guys sneering at the RAF of today and pretending everything was better when they were in. If that is not what you are doing then I don't have a beef with you.

Let's look at this from another angle. The longest running thread on this forum (that I am aware of) was the Chinook Mull of Kintyre thread. What if I had posted on there that I thought the pilots were to blame? Would you expect everyone to sit back and say "that's alright, BV, you're entitled to your opinion"?

Anyway, since I appear to be the only one who took issue with RetiredBA/BY's original post I'll give it a rest.


overstress 22nd Jan 2017 11:19

People use anonymity on here for valid reasons. However I'd be happy to identify myself if you PM me. I'm personally gutted that Sean died in those circumstances. I don't think anyone is saying "I told you so", in my case (especially as an ex Flight Safety Officer) I'm just concerned that such a well-known gotcha (there were posters everywhere, some archived on this site) somehow got forgotten over time. No-one is sneering and I'm sure that BA/BY didn't intend that.

As you know, accidents usually involve a chain of events, holes in the cheeses. The handle was one link in the chain, the bolt torque another.

All the best

Chugalug2 22nd Jan 2017 13:54


As you know, accidents usually involve a chain of events, holes in the cheeses. The handle was one link in the chain, the bolt torque another.
To which I would add the lack of a Safety Case Report. That alone meant that the Hawk was unairworthy as it lacked a legal RTS. Why didn't the MI pursue that, having creditably unearthed the lack of the Report? "It was outside its remit", do I hear? That in a nutshell is why UK Military Air Regulation and Accident Investigation should be independent of the Operator and of each other.

BV, I'm afraid that I disagree therefore with your claim that

The SI has clearly brought out all the lessons and everyone is now well aware of them for the future.
as for

I do have something against retired guys sneering at the RAF of today and pretending everything was better when they were in
I can only say that I do have something against serving guys who portray those of us who are retired but care deeply for those like you who still serve in such a negative way.

The chain of events that led to Sean Cunningham's avoidable and tragic death started back in the late 80s/early 90s in my view.

Enough has been posted here in the Chinook, Hercules, Nimrod, Sea King, Tornado, and now Hawk airworthiness related fatal accident threads to point up that common root cause. Yet still RAF Investigations, and the MAA (nee MOD) Regulator fail to recognise it. That is unprofessional to say the least, and won't draw the lessons that prevent recurrence. If that is sneering, then I am guilty as charged.

Like overstress, if my PPRuNe ID is anathema to you I am quite prepared to reveal my true one to you via PM.

dervish 22nd Jan 2017 14:17

Good post Chug. You need to keep making your point. There might have been a problem with the seat or how it was used, but why was the aircraft in use?

MACH2NUMBER 22nd Jan 2017 15:33

Why don't we just ground everything, no problems then. I would bet in hindsight that no military aircraft from day 1 even to the present would pass the current criteria.

Heathrow Harry 22nd Jan 2017 16:52

That's what happens after a prolonged period of peace

In war time you accept the risks, as peace draws on the risks seem less and less justifiable

drustsonoferp 22nd Jan 2017 17:09

There seems to be a significant attitude from ex-serving former aircrew that things like this would never have happened in their day, or even more interesting, that they knew about the weaknesses of the seat pan firing handle design years ago and were told to look out for it.

The seat pan firing handle modification is very simple. If the culture of yesteryear was so wonderful, the standards of safety so great, how did no one manage to recommend a modification, report the unsatisfactory nature of the equipment they were given to use, or otherwise put anything in writing so that any apparent knowledge was more than anecdotal?

Reviews after the RAFAT event were extensive, and widely regarded to have revealed new information, not previously understood. If there were any indication that such things were known years ago, it is a failing of the previous generations to document them properly which lead to this.

Rather than smugly state how you would never have done something similar, and that standards must surely have slipped in the intervening years, ask why you never thought to raise a F765X - if you can genuinely say you understood the problem then as it was later revealed.

MACH2NUMBER 22nd Jan 2017 17:30

The problem not so many years ago was that we were taught procedural safety as a foil to absolute physical safety (which is unachievable). I doubt anyone knew what a F765X was and would probably not have been encouraged to submit one.
I for one do not have the attitude to which you refer, and resent that particular line of yours. I believe that by luck of God this didn't happen to me and many others.
However I refer you still to my earlier post.

drustsonoferp 22nd Jan 2017 17:43

I don't claim this attitude is universal, nor that you exhibit it - clearly many of you do not, but it is notable in this thread.

Chugalug2 22nd Jan 2017 17:45

M2N, if I might respond while we await dervish. The MAA seems to be doing as you suggest regardless of the reform that I propose, having rid us of our MR force and the ACO's Gliders (Oh sorry that's a "pause" isn't it?). I assume that you don't seriously propose what you have posted. Whatever the state of our operational fleets, they have to remain available for our defence no matter. Any Regulator, whether it be the MAA (nee MOD) or one independent of the MOD simply has to do the best with the hand it is dealt. The problem is that the MAA won't admit what the hand is that it has been dealt.

The MAA proclaims its bedrock to be Haddon-Cave's Nimrod Report. It is not bedrock, it is sand, hence the parable quoted earlier. By claiming the period late 80s/early 90s to be a "Golden Period" of airworthiness it sought to obscure the lasting damage to UK Military Air Safety rendered by RAF VSOs in that very period. Unless and until the RAF and the MAA face up to that fact (which they haven't so far in order to protect those same VSOs) then the extent and effect of their subversion cannot be assessed, and further accidents as covered by this thread can be expected.

HH, wartime risks are one thing, but aircraft that self combust or ejection seats that kill their occupants are unacceptable in peace or war.

drsoe, this isn't about being wise after the event, or worse still before it and saying nothing, this is about aviation. It will try to kill you given half a chance. You point to mods made to the MB seat that would have saved Sean Cunningham's life. Very good, but they didn't did they? Too little and too late! If the seat had a Safety Case Report, and the RAF a Flight Safety System that had fed back those 765's in good time, then such mods would have been incorporated without anyone having to die.

I understand the resentment of those doing the doing while we old farts simply hammer away at keyboards. We all want the same thing, the avoidance of avoidable accidents. That can only happen if we face up to reality. I maintain that the MAA has yet to do that.

MACH2NUMBER 22nd Jan 2017 17:59

You are correct, it was tongue in cheek; however, as an ex Wg Cdr Spry, I always sought for open reporting of FS issues. It was an uphill battle, particularly against many sensitive engineers and VSOs. We nearly got there, but the hierarchy in the 80s brought open reporting down by trying to find out who the 'open' were. Things became even more difficult in the 90s.
I could go on, but..

Chugalug2 22nd Jan 2017 18:07

Well perhaps you should M2N. Unless those like you, who experienced the pressures to just shut up and go away, testify to it here then we are all tarred with the same brush wielded by dru.

Bob Viking 22nd Jan 2017 19:27

Chug et al
It looks like I will need to spell it out again.

I find it extremely difficult to understand why ANY pilot could not be utterly meticulous about checking and strapping into his seat, to have any strap out of place , let alone one through the firing handle and no notice the fact is absurdly bad airmanship.

And I still can't imagine why the pin was being replaced on the roll out with other aircraft in the vicinity, why on earth does, or perhaps did, the RAF allow such sloppy procedures?

The above was posted by RetiredBA/BY. You added that his post was well made. I don't really have an issue with you or others that seem to think I'm taking a pop at them. Indeed your posts are usually eloquent and well considered. You do come across as a little precious though by assuming I'm grouping you in with my initial statement.

I don't need to know your identity or that of anyone else. My point about anonymity is this. Would RetiredBA/BY happily walk up to the family of the deceased and state to their face that he believed their son exhibited absurdly bad airmanship? I doubt it very much. If he would then he is not someone I would wish to associate with.

Your points on this thread are about safety cases and the broader picture of RAF flight safety. You will notice I'm not getting involved in that. I could not add to your well made points and my knowledge would pale into insignificance against yours.

It is heartening to know that others agree with me (I have had a few PMs along these lines).

So please take my points as they were intended and don't think that I am in any way ageist or that I don't appreciate your support. The way you jump on drustsonoferp does reinforce my point somewhat though. As knowledgeable and wise as you are no-one is beyond criticism.

I hope I have, finally, made my point clearly enough.


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