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Ejector seat manufacturer admits health and safety breach after death of Red Arrows pilot

A Red Arrows Hawk TMk1 XX177 at RAF Scampton, the plane involved in the death of RAF Flight Lieutenant Sean Cunningham, who was killed after being ejected from the cockpit whilst still on the ground at RAF Scampton in Lincolnshire in 2011.
A Red Arrows Hawk TMk1 XX177 at RAF Scampton, the plane involved in the death of RAF Flight Lieutenant Sean Cunningham, who was killed after being ejected from the cockpit whilst still on the ground at RAF Scampton in Lincolnshire in 2011.

An ejector seat manufacturer has admitted breaching health and safety law over the death of a Red Arrows pilot.

Flight Lieutenant Sean Cunningham, an experienced flyer and Iraq war veteran, was fatally injured after being ejected from his Hawk T1 aircraft while on the ground at RAF Scampton, Lincolnshire, on November 8, 2011.

Photo issued by the Ministry of Defence of Flight Lieutenant Sean Cunningham

Photo issued by the Ministry of Defence of Flight Lieutenant Sean Cunningham

The parachute on the ejector seat did not deploy and the South African-born airman later died in hospital.

John Martin, statutory director of Martin-Baker Aircraft Ltd, pleaded guilty on behalf of the company at Lincoln Crown Court on Monday to a breach of Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 in connection with the 35-year-old's death.

Flt Lt Cunningham died after his ejector seat initiated during pre-flight checks.

At an inquest into his death in 2014, Central Lincolnshire coroner Stuart Fisher criticised Martin-Baker for failing to warn the RAF about safety issues.

The firm describes itself as the "world's leading manufacturer of ejection and crashworthy seats".