Inquest into death of Red Arrows pilot Sean Cunningham finds ejector seat safety mechanism 'entirely useless'
Flt Lt Cunningham was killed at RAF Scampton in Lincolnshire after he was accidentally ejected while his aircraft was on the ground
A coroner has described a safety pin on an ejection seat that threw a Red Arrows pilot to his death as "entirely useless" and criticised its manufacturer for failing to warn the RAF of the defect.
Flt Lt Sean Cunningham, 35, was killed at RAF Scampton in Lincolnshire on November 8th 2011 after he was accidentally ejected from his Hawk T1 aircraft while it was on the ground.
Flt Lt Cunningham, who was born in South Africa and grew up in Coventry, was propelled 220ft in the air from the cockpit of the plane.
The inquest heard that the ejection seat firing handle was left in an unsafe position meaning it could accidentally activate the seat.
The court heard that testing of the Mk.10 Martin-Baker seat showed it was still possible to insert a safety pin into the seat even when it was in an unsafe position.
Coroner Stuart Fisher described the pin mechanism as "entirely useless".
The failures associated with the ejection handle should not have proved fatal as Flt Lt Cunningham should have been saved by his parachute.
However, Mr Fisher told the hearing that the main chute failed to deploy because a nut and bolt had been fastened too tightly.
The court heard that seven RAF personnel had 19 opportunities to check the ejection seat firing handle between the final flight on November 4 and the incident.
All personnel failed to notice the seat was in the wrong position.
The coroner said there was a repeated failure not to notice that the pin had been incorrectly housed and that the seat firing handle was in an unsafe position.
The court heard that Martin-Baker knew the parachute mechanism could jam if the nut and bolt were too tight as early as January 1990.
However despite being aware of these issues Martin- Baker failed to pass on the warnings to the Ministry of Defence, the coroner said.
Following the three-week inquest, Central Lincolnshire coroner Stuart Fisher recorded a narrative verdict.
Mr Fisher said: "There was a very serious failure of communication by Martin- Baker (the manufacturer) in my view. It is unexplained by the evidence. It seems there is no logic to warn and inform some but not others."
In a statement released after the hearing today, Air Commodore Terry Jones, speaking on behalf of the MoD, said: "The tragic loss of Flight Lieutenant Sean Cunningham at RAF Scampton in November 2011 is still keenly felt by the Royal Air Force, the Red Arrows and all of Sean's former colleagues.
"Our thoughts have always been and continue to be with his mother and father Monika and Jim and sister Nicolette and his extended family and friends. They remain in our thoughts and prayers as always.
"We are grateful to the Coroner for his thorough examination of the facts and to the preceding thorough inquiry conducted by the Military Aviation Authority. There have been a number of lessons for us and others to absorb and correct and we have made and will continue to make every effort to ensure that such a tragic accident cannot occur again. The Red Arrows in particular will be a stronger, safer and better team as a result."
- 1 What happens to your body when you give up sugar?
- 2 Drugs Live cannabis trial: Hash is less harmful than any other drug, expert claims
- 3 Turkish Airlines flight TK 726 crash-lands on Nepal runway amid dense fog
- 4 Penis size: Study revealing 'what's normal' sends international media into meltdown
- 5 Have sex with your iPad thanks to the new sex toy no-one asked for
Turkish Airlines flight TK 726 crash-lands on Nepal runway amid dense fog
Ayesha Ali death: Mother and her girlfriend found guilty of manslaughter of eight-year-old
George Clooney and Amal fail to get special treatment at New York restaurant
Cindy Crawford 'un-PhotoShopped' viral Marie Claire image was doctored, claims photographer
'A girl is more responsible for rape than a boy': The statement that shocked the world... except India
Nearly 100,000 of Britain's poorest children go hungry after parents' benefits are cut
Durham Free School: 'Creationism taught at' free school facing closure
Ukip would cut billions from Scottish budget to fund English tax cuts
End of the licence fee: BBC to back radical overhaul of how it is funded
Ukraine crisis: Top Chinese diplomat backs Putin and says West should 'abandon zero-sum mentality'
Boris Nemtsov shot dead: Outspoken Putin critic who had expressed fears for his life is killed near the Kremlin
£30000 - £37000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A 2nd / 3rd Line IT Support Eng...
£25000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This firm are focussed on assis...
£7 per hour: Recruitment Genius: A vacancy has arisen for a General Processor ...
£18000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A great opportunity has arisen ...