Lincolnshire

Red Arrows pilot death: Ejector seat firm to be prosecuted

Flight Lieutenant Sean Cunningham Image copyright Ministry of Defence
Image caption Flight Lieutenant Sean Cunningham died after being ejected from his aircraft in 2011

An ejector seat firm will be prosecuted by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) over the death of a Red Arrows pilot in 2011.

Flt Lt Sean Cunningham, 35, was injured after being ejected from a Hawk T1 jet while on the ground at RAF Scampton.

The parachute on the ejector seat did not deploy and the South African-born airman died in hospital on 8 November.

The HSE will prosecute Martin Baker Aircraft Ltd for an alleged breach of health and safety law.

Inspector David Butter said: "We have conducted a thorough investigation and consider there is sufficient evidence and it is in the public interest to bring a prosecution."

Martin Baker Aircraft Company Ltd, of Lower Road, Higher Denham, near Uxbridge, is to appear at Lincoln Magistrates' Court, at a date to be confirmed, to face a section three charge under the Health and Safety at Work Act.

Image caption Flt Lt Sean Cunningham was ejected from a Hawk T1 jet, which was fitted by Martin Baker Aircraft Ltd, on 8 November 2011

The alleged breach is Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974, which states: "It shall be the duty of every employer to conduct his undertaking in such a way as to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that persons not in his employment who may be affected thereby are not thereby exposed to risks to their health or safety."

In a statement, the company said its thoughts and prayers were with the pilot's family and that it was "dedicated to providing the safest ejection seats".

HSE investigated the incident following a number of separate inquiries including those by the Ministry of Defence (MOD), the civilian and military police, the Military Aviation Authority and the Military Air Accident Investigation Branch.


Timeline

  • 8 November 2011: Flt Lt Sean Cunningham dies after being ejected from a Hawk T1 jet while on the ground at the Red Arrows' base at RAF Scampton
  • 9 November 2011: The day after his death, the MOD suspended training flights of aircraft fitted with the MK10 ejector seats including Hawk T1, Tornado and Tucano
  • 22 November 2011: An inquest, which opened and adjourned in Lincoln, heard the Red Arrows pilot died from multiple injuries after being ejected from an aircraft. The coroner's court was told he fell from a height and had hit the ground, still strapped to his seat
  • December 2011: Funeral of Flt Lt Sean Cunningham is held at Coventry Cathedral, attended by 800 mourners including RAF personnel. The halted flights are resumed.
  • March 2013: The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) said it would review the pilot's death after Lincolnshire Police hand over a file of evidence.
  • April 2013: Prosecutor Alison Storey said no charges would be brought over the fatality because there had been insufficient evidence on whether anyone had breached their duty of care.
  • January 2014: Coroner Stuart Fisher records a narrative verdict after a three-week inquest into Flt Lt Cunningham's death.
  • September 2016: The Health and Safety Executive said it would prosecute Martin Baker Aircraft Ltd for an alleged breach of health and safety law.

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