Coroner criticises manufacturer of Red Arrows ejection seat

A coroner has criticised the manufacturer of an ejector seat which led to the death of a Red Arrows pilot. Flight Lieutenant Sean Cunningham, who was 35 and from Coventry, died in November 2011 at RAF Scampton in Lincolnshire.

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Family of Red Arrows pilot 'find it difficult' to understand why opportunities to prevent tragedy were missed

In a statement, the father of Flight Lieutenant Sean Cunningham says his son died doing what he loved, adding that the family are struggling to accept how many opportunities were missed which could have prevented his death.

Flight Lieutenant Sean Cunningham

Flight Lieutenant Cunningham's father Jim Cunningham said:

“Our son Sean died aged 35 doing what he loved which was flying with the Red Arrows. From the age of 17, he had wanted nothing more than to join the Royal Air Force and serve his country, which he did with utmost pride and sense of duty.

“He served a number of tours in Iraq flying Tornados in close air support of coalition forces. Sean’s death was a tragedy which we hope the evidence revealed in this Inquest, will help to avoid in the future.

“We still find it difficult to accept that so many people could have missed, between Sean’s last sortie on Friday and the following Tuesday, what should have been obvious to those having a duty to ensure the safety of the seat, and we remain unconvinced as to that aspect of the Coroner’s finding.

“Nevertheless, we accept that how the seat firing handle came to be in a position where it could be inadvertently activated may never be fully understood.

"We welcome the conclusions of the Coroner which confirm what we knew all along, which is that Sean was blameless and his tragic death was preventable.

"We therefore welcome the Coroner’s recommendations, which we hope and pray will ensure that no family such as ours, has to endure such a pointless and avoidable death."

Manufacturer of Red Arrows' ejector seat says 'lessons have been learned'

The manufacturer of the ejector seat says it has learned lessons after the death of a Red Arrows pilot who died after being accidentally ejected from his Hawk T1.

Flight Lieutenant Sean Cunningham was killed at RAF Scampton in Lincolnshire in November 2011. He did not separate from the ejector seat and his parachute did not deploy because a shackle had jammed.

Martin-Baker says it has 'taken steps to alert all [of its] customers worldwide who use this type of seat of the risk of over tightening the shackle'.

We would like to extend our sincere condolences to Flight Lieutenant Cunningham's family and friends. Martin-Baker is a family owned company producing vital equipment for people doing a dangerous and important job. We take our responsibilities to these individuals very seriously and we are all deeply saddened by this terrible accident.

The ejection seat is qualified to save a life on a ground level ejection. On this occasion, uniquely in the entire history of Martin-Baker ejection seats using this particular feature, it failed due to a shackle bolt being too tight. This prevented the main parachute from deploying.

Lessons have been learned and we have taken steps to alert all our customers worldwide who still use this type of seat, of the risk of over tightening the shackle.

Furthermore, our designers, working closely with military experts have developed a new type of shackle bolt and firing handle housing, which both Martin-Baker and the military authorities consider will prevent the reoccurrence of the circumstances that led to this tragic accident.

Martin-Baker is proud to be able to say that, since 1946, it has led the world in the design development and manufacture of ejection seats. As of today's date, these seats have saved 7436 lives, seven in this month alone.

– Martin-Baker spokesperson


Inquest hears Red Arrows cut back displays after pilot death

Sean Cunningham died in November 2011 Credit: ITV News Central

An inquest has been told that the Red Arrows have cut back on flying displays after the death of pilot Sean Cunningham.

The 35-year-old from Coventry died at RAF Scampton in November 2011 when he was ejected from his aircraft while it was on the ground.

Group Commander David Bentley. who oversees the aerobatics team, has told a hearing in Lincoln that the reduction in the number of displays was one of a number of changes made after the fatal incident:

""We are doing less. We have more people. We have better oversight and we have better communications."

The coroner is due to deliver his verdict later this week.

Sean Cunningham inquest: firm 'should have warned RAF not to over-tighten vital nut'

Sean Cunnigham from Coventry died when his ejector seat activated on the ground at RAF Scampton in Lincolnshire in 2011 Credit: ITV News Central

An official from the company which made the ejector seat used by Red Arrows pilot Sean Cunningham has told an inquest into his death the firm should have warned the RAF not to over-tighten a vital nut.

The inquest heard that seat manufacturers Martin Baker only warned some of its customers that if a nut was too tight the ejector seat chute was likely to fail.

The RAF was not told.

Flight Lieutenant Sean Cunningham from Coventry died when his ejector seat activated on the ground at RAF Scampton in Lincolnshire in 2011.

The inquest continues on Thursday.


Inquest hears pilots death put spotlight on shortfall in staffing

An inquest has heard the death of a Red Arrows pilot put the spotlight on a shortfall in staffing at their Lincolnshire base.

Flight Lieutenant Sean Cunningham Credit: ITV News Central

Flight Lieutenant Sean Cunningham died at RAF Scampton in November 2011 when he was ejected from his aircraft while it was on the ground.

Air Commodore George Martin, who was chief air engineer at the time, told Central Lincolnshire Coroner's Court more staff were being brought in around the time but the incident highlighted the need to rectify the shortfall.

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RAF engineer: 'We weren't properly trained'

An RAF engineer has told an inquest on Tuesday of how a dream posting to the Red Arrows turned into a nightmare after he discovered he was expected to carry out his new job without training.

Chief Technician Norman Briggs, who joined the crack aerobatics team in April 2011 said he had no previous experience of working on Hawk jets used by the Arrows but was left to his own devices after simply being shown round the hangar at their base at RAF Scampton, Lincs.

Sean Cunningham

The inquest at Lincoln is examining the circumstances surrounding the death of Red Arrows' pilot Flt Lt Sean Cunningham, 35, who lost his life in November 2011 after his ejection seat went off while he was on the ground preparing to take off.

He was thrown 300 feet into the air and suffered fatal injuries when he fell back down to earth still strapped in his seat after his parachute failed to open.

Red Arrows

The hearing has been told that at the time the ground crew team was up to 30% short of the numbers needed to operate efficiently with many of those arriving on the team straight from their basic training.

Mid Lincolnshire Coroner Stuart Fisher is also looking at what part problems with the ejection seat played in the fatal incident.

Chief Technician Briggs told an inquest that he was appointed to a supervisory role as avionics trade manager with the team but was not given the training he needed to carry out the job.

RAF bosses approved £1m extra Red Arrows spending following death, inquest hears

RAF bosses approved £1million a year extra spending on the Red Arrows within weeks of the death of a pilot from Coventry, an inquest has heard today.

Sean Cunningham Credit: ITV News Central

Flight Lieutenant Sean Cunningham died when he was ejected from a plane at RAF Scampton in Lincolnshire.

A senior engineer told the inquest that a colleague had identified the squadron was 38 engineers short. A meeting to increase manpower took place in the week after the pilot's death.

Metal thefts fall in West Midlands after new law introduced

The number of metal thefts in the West Midlands fell by almost 30 per cent in 2013.

New laws introduced last year made it harder to deal in scrap metal. Credit: Press Association Images

Last year the Scrap Metal Dealers Act 2013 was introduced which makes it illegal for traders to offer cash for scrap being weighed in at their yards. It also made it obligatory for them to have a licence to deal in scrap metal.

In December offers from across the Black Country carried out two weeks of operations tackling traders who were operating illegally on the region's roads.

In two weeks last month the police say they stopped more than 90 scrap metal collectors and found that 27 people did not have a licence.

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