Ejector seat probe in Red Arrows' pilot inquest
An inquest into the death of Red Arrows pilot Sean Cunningham will examine whether a design fault with the ejector seat handle could have caused it to activate.
Flight Lieutenant Cunningham was killed after his ejector seat fired while his plane was grounded at RAF Scampton in November 2011.
He was shot 200 ft into the air and his parachute failed to deploy.
A pre-inquest hearing at the Lincoln Cathedral Centre this morning agreed the scope of the full three-week inquest to begin on January 9.
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The subsequent inquiry will consider:
• Did the ejector seat handle snag and the seat activate and did the design of the handle mean this could happen?
• Was the handle in the correct ‘safe’ position when the ejector seat was made ready?
• Was a nut and bolt over-tightened meaning that the main parachute was unable to deploy, did seat manufacturer Martin Baker Ltd know this was a problem and did they effectively communicate any equipment problems with the MoD?
• What were the effects of the display schedule on the ability to service the aircraft properly and the demands it had on the pilots?
Forty witnesses have been agreed to give evidence including first female Red Arrow pilot Kirsty Stewart.
She will be asked to give her account of an incident at RAF Valley in which one of her straps went through the ejector seat handle, nearly activating the seat, during a training exercise.
Counsel for the family Tom Kark, QC, said: “On behalf of the family, they would like the widest explanation possible of why their son and brother died.”
Coroner Stuart Fisher said: “This is going to be a very thorough inquiry.
"I will leave no stone unturned.”