The UK Royal Air Force has been cleared to resume normal flight operations with its BAE Systems Hawk T1/1A training aircraft one month after the type was grounded following a fatal accident, but investigation work continues to determine the cause of the event.
Announcing the development on 7 December, the RAF said the decision to return the Hawk T1 to use without restrictions had been made "following safety advice and the issue of a precautionary technical instruction" from the UK Defence Equipment and Support organisation.
The UK imposed a precautionary grounding order on its Hawk fleet on 8 November, following the death of a pilot from its Red Arrows aerobatic display team during an incident at RAF Scampton in Lincolnshire, England. Flt Lt Sean Cunningham was killed after his Martin-Baker Mk 10B ejection seat was activated on the ground, with its parachute having failed to deploy.
In an unusual step, Martin-Baker recently issued a statement noting it was "satisfied that neither a mechanical nor a design fault were to blame for the fatality" after having inspected the seat involved in the accident.
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"The RAF chain of command have reviewed the safety evidence relating to the Hawk T1 ejection seat and have no remaining safety concerns," the service said. It had already given clearance for its other Mk 10 ejection seat-equipped aircraft - the Hawk T2, Panavia Tornado GR4 and Shorts Tucano T1 - to return to use after also being restricted following the death.
A service inquiry into the incident by the UK Military Aviation Authority is under way. "The panel will make recommendations, if necessary, to help prevent recurrence," the RAF said.