On the 10th November 2016, the Royal Aeronautical Society Heathrow Branch successfully concluded the monthly lecture at the British Airways Waterside Theatre. The lecture, presented by Tony Gaunt, Business Development Executive of Martin Baker, was entitled ‘The History and Development of Martin-Baker’.
Tony began the presentation with a video, which showed footage of company that for over 67 years has been the undisputed world leader in the design and manufacture of ejection seats.
The audience was then taken on a journey through the development of the ejection seat, from the Mk 1, through to the Mk17. It was interesting to see how each model had taken the previous and built upon it and how some of the models had been so successful, such as the Mk 10, that many of the newer ones are essentially directly updated versions of it. The development from having runway speed limits to zero-zero capability and the rocket aided, self-ejecting seats really shows how far they have come. The Mk 1 took 20-30 seconds from handle pulling to chute deployment, and to think that the current models have had to be forcibly slowed down to 1.2 seconds for this same action is astonishing.
One of the things that particularly stood out were the individuals in the early days, such as Bernard Lynch, who volunteered to test the seats live in flying aircraft. Nowadays, test dummies are used, and can be monitored by computers for data such as acceleration and loads, but it must have been quite something to have the feedback of the early seats delivered first hand.
Despite having now reached the impressive total of saving more than 7,500 lives, it is evident that Martin Baker is still working hard to continuously update and develop some of their world leading designs and adapt them to many different situations. One fascinating design was the Mk 15, which fitted into the Pilatus PC-7. Due to a lack of cockpit space, ejection caused the seat bottom to fall away, leaving the pilot to eject while standing in the cockpit.
Tony also went further to describe the future projects that Martin-Baker were working on including the Mk 18. One slightly different project that was also described was the crashworthy seat design for helicopters. Having already created an ejection seat for rotary aircraft, which involved blowing off the rotors before ejecting vertically, the company are now working on seats that can withstand a 25g impact.
The presentation concluded with a video showing some of the live ejections from aircraft fitted with the Martin-Baker ejection seats. It was very eye-opening to see some real life disasters and how the seats had saved so many lives. Whether it was the Red Arrows, fighters on aircraft carriers, mid-air collisions or even airshow displays that had gone wrong, it was evident that without these seats many of those pilots would not have been able to survive.
Looking forward to the December 2016 lecture, the RAeS Heathrow Branch is welcoming Hugh Dibley, Consultant, Airbus. Captain Dibley will present the developments of aircraft simulation as an essential part of training and even aircraft design. He will describe the operational capabilities of the latest visual and motion systems, which are today being applied not only to aircraft simulators but to ground vehicles, naval and space ship simulators. You can now register our lectures online at tiny.cc/RAeSLHR.
Eleanor McBrien, 11 November 2016