UK suspends Hawk, Tornado, Tucano flights after Red Arrows fatality

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The UK Royal Air Force has temporarily suspended all "non-essential" flights of aircraft fitted with the Martin-Baker Mk 10B ejection seat as a "precautionary measure" following a fatal accident involving an aircraft from its Red Arrows aerobatic display team.

The grounding covers three aircraft - BAE Systems Hawk T1/1A trainers, Panavia Tornado GR4 strike aircraft and Shorts Tucano T1 basic trainers.

Ongoing operations involving the Tornados in Afghanistan are unaffected by the grounding, the Ministry of Defence said.

 

© Steve Hill/Rex Features

Operations with the types were halted after an incident at RAF Scampton in Lincolnshire on 8 November, where a pilot died of injuries sustained after his ejection seat activated while on the ground. The MoD on 9 November named him as Flt Lt Sean Cunningham, who had joined the team for the 2011 display season.

The decision to suspend operations represents the third time in a little more than a year that the Hawk fleet has been temporarily stood down. Fleet-wide inspections were conducted in mid-2010 after cracks were found in an ejection seat structure on one Hawk, and operations were also temporarily halted in August 2011 after a Red Arrows aircraft crashed shortly after completing a flying display in Bournemouth, Dorset. Its pilot, Flt Lt Jon Egging, was killed.

The UK Military Air Accident Investigation Branch is now investigating both accidents involving the Red Arrows.