Tuesday, July 20, 2021 9:26 am
By Sadeeq Shehu
EXPLAINER: WHAT HAPPENS WHEN A PILOT EJECTS FROM AN AFFLICTED AIRCRAFT?
One of the most imperative responsibilities of a Commander is the protection of his most valuable asset: the people. The military probably more than any other institution believes that in order to be most productive and effective, people who are sent into harm’s way must have confidence that if something bad occurs, their unit, organization or government will do the utmost to find and bring them safely home.
The military “has an obligation to Nigerians in general and families of military personnel, to ensure its soldiers go into battle with the assurance of success and survival. This is an obligation that only rigorous and realistic training, conducted to standard, can fulfill.
The purpose of an ejection seat is pilot survival. When I heard yesterday that a Nigerian Air Force Pilot had ejected from an aircraft , the first question I asked was “Which aircraft ?” and when I was told it was an Alpha -Jet , I was not unduly alarmed .
This was because I know the Alpha Jet carried the MK 10 Martin -Baker ejection seat….probably the best ejection seat in the market. Flt Lt Abayomi survived probably because of 4 things: his coolness in the face of danger, The Martin-Baker ejection seat, NAF survival training he received and a superb NAF Personnel Recovery team.
ABOUT THE MARTIN BAKER EJECTION SEAT
Martin-Baker Aircraft Co. Ltd. is a British manufacturer of ejection seats and safety-related equipment for aviation. The company’s origins were originally as an aircraft manufacturer before becoming a pioneer in the field of ejection seats.
Founded in 1934 by Sir James Martin and Captain Valentine Baker, Martin-Baker supplies ejection seats for 93 air forces worldwide and their seats have been fitted into over 200 fixed-wing and rotary types.
As of 2012, over 20,000 crashworthy seats have been delivered.
They have a reputation: Martin-Baker claimed in 2016 that since the first live ejection test in 1945, a total of 7,613 lives have been saved by the company’s ejection seats. You can now add one more : Flight Lieutenant Abayomi.
In particular, Baker’s death in 1942 during a test flight of the MB 3 affected Martin so much that pilot safety became his primary focus and led to the later reorganization of the company to focus primarily on ejection seats. In 1944, James Martin was asked by the Ministry of Aircraft Production to develop methods for fighter pilots to escape their aircraft. Martin decided that the best method involved ejection of the seat with the occupant sitting in it, aided by an explosive charge.
After ejection, the pilot would separate from the seat and open his parachute by pulling a ripcord in the usual way. At that time there was little information on how much upward thrust or what in pilot parlance is called “Negative G”the human body could withstand. (To get an idea of Negative G , if you have flown in a commercial aircraft and the aircraft bounces due to turbulence, I am sure you have had that sensation down there as you want to – lets say urinate? I really don’t mean urinate, but you get the idea.
That’s Negative G) Controlled tests were conducted in January 1945 on volunteers to find the limits of upward acceleration that the human body could stand, at each stage stopped when the volunteer reported the onset of considerable physical discomfort.
The first ejection seat was successfully live-tested on 24 July 1946. The first use of an ejection seat in a practical application by a British pilot involved the Armstrong Whitworth A.W.52 flying wing experimental aircraft in May 1949.
Martin-Baker was a pioneer in expanding the operational envelope of the ejection seat to enable it to be used at low altitudes and airspeeds, leading eventually to development of the “zero-zero” capability in 1961.
From the first edition Mk 1 we are now at Mk 17. The NAF’s F-7 and Alpha carry MK 10! Chengdu F-7 / Guizhou F-7, FT-7 Dassault/Dornier Alpha Jet while the incoming EMB 314 Tucanos carry MK 11!!
WHAT HAPPENS WHEN A PILOT PULLS THE EJECTION HANDLE?
In aircraft, an ejection seat or ejector seat is a system designed to rescue the pilot or other crew of an aircraft (usually military) in an emergency.
In most designs, the seat is propelled out of the aircraft by an explosive charge or rocket motor, carrying the pilot with it. Once clear of the aircraft, and on attaining a certain altitude the ejection seat deploys a parachute.
Ejection seats are common on certain types of military aircraft.The “standard” ejection system operates in two stages. First, the entire canopy or hatch above the aviator is opened, shattered, or jettisoned, and the seat and occupant are launched through the opening.
In most earlier aircraft this required two separate actions by the aviator, while later egress system designs, such as the Advanced Concept Ejection Seat model 2 (ACES II), perform both functions as a single action.
But even after a successful ejection , the pilot is alive, but not yet safe. It depends on where he lands. Our adversaries such as Boko Haram/ISWAP clearly understand there is great intelligence and propaganda value to be leveraged from captured pilots that can influence our national and political will and negatively impact our strategic objectives.
For these reasons, the NAF maintains a robust and well trained force to locate and recover personnel who have become “isolated” from friendly forces. Personnel recovery (PR) is an overarching term that describes this process and the capability it represents.
We saw that NAF capability on display in this incident. PR is defined as “the sum of military, diplomatic, and civil efforts to prepare for and execute the recovery and reintegration of isolated personnel” Air Force PR capability has three critical components: dedicated PR forces, commanders and staffs trained to manage PR programs and missions, and Airmen who are trained and equipped for potential isolation and recovery.
Of course the pilot himself has received top class training in Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape (SERE) training which includes include common outdoor/wilderness survival skills such as firecraft, sheltercraft, first aid, water procurement and treatment, food procurement (traps, snares, and wild edibles), improvised equipment, self-defense (natural hazards), and navigation (map and compass, etc.).
By sight , color and smell, Flt Lt Abayomi had been trained to recognize which wild plants to eat and the poisonous ones to avoid.More advanced survival training focuses on mental elements such as will to survive, attitude, and “survival thinking” (situational awareness, assessment, prioritization).
Military survival schools also teach unique skills such as parachute landings, basic and specialized signalling, vectoring a helicopter, use of rescue devices (forest-tree penetrators, harnesses, etc.), rough terrain travel, and interaction with indigenous peoples.He is also adept at using use of specialized military survival equipment, survival kits, signaling, having been subjected to a much wider variety of likely scenarios as any given mission may expose him to a wide variety of risks, environments, and injuries as wells use of advanced equipment and pre-established protocols.
POSTCRIPT JOINING THE ELITE MARTIN BAKER EJECTION TIE CLUB
Martin-Baker also sponsors an “Ejection Tie Club,” producing a tie, patch, certificate, tie pin and membership card for those like Abayomi whose lives have been saved by a Martin-Baker ejection seat.
It is expected that Flight Lieutenant Abayomi Dairo will receice his Martin-Baker ejection club tie, patch, certificate, tie pin and membership card.
The company also partnered with Bremont to produce a limited-edition wristwatch for members of the club which Abayomi could buy at a discount to remember that day.
In sum, the military “has an obligation to the Nigerian people to ensure its soldiers go into battle with the assurance of success and survival.
This is an obligation that only rigorous and realistic training, conducted to standard, can fulfill” That NAF has long taken survival training as an integral part of combat readiness, That commitment paid off yesterday .
Evasion, resistance, and escape, evading an enemy consists of certain well-known basic skills, but the military has an interest in not openly discussing its practices since this may assist an enemy.
Since some elements of NAF hostile survival preparedness and teaching are classified, I have skipped a lot of details.
The NAF has cause to celebrate. I join them. NB Perish the thought…Passenger/civilian aircraft do not carry ejection seats.
Group Captain Sadeeq Shehu is a retired air force officer
First published in : https://prnigeria.com/2021/07/20/how-fighter-pilot-ejected/