As the first two Eurofighter operators have returned their aircraft to normal operational use following a safety scare, ejection seat manufacturer Martin-Baker has commented on the issue for the first time.
While the UK company declines to talk specifically about the 24 August accident during which a Royal Saudi Air Force pilot was killed after ejecting from a Eurofighter in Spain, it says the mishap was not the result of any design fault.
The Mk16A seat producer says it was not contacted by Spanish authorities to assist in their investigation into the incident. But it “has not received any communication from the Spanish authorities to indicate that a deficiency in either the ejection seat, or pilot parachute harness was the cause of the death of the pilot.”
© Spanish air force
The accident destroyed one of Spain's twin-seat trainers
All six Eurofighter users halted or restricted operations with their aircraft as a result of the Spanish accident, and so far only the Austrian air force and UK Royal Air Force are known to have resumed normal activities, including training sorties.
The RAF attributed its decision to resume operations on 20 September to assessments of the Mk16A’s seat harness, with the work supported by BAE Systems, Martin-Baker and Qinetiq.
© Crown Copyright
“As a result of these assessments they concluded that under certain conditions, the quick release fitting could be unlocked using the palm of the hands, rather than the thumb and fingers and that this posed a risk of inadvertent release,” Martin-Baker says.
A modification was rapidly developed and approved “to eliminate this risk”, and is now being fitted to Typhoon seats, it adds.
An assessment of the Mk16A seat revealed a 'risk of inadvertent release'
An industry source says Germany, Italy and Spain are expected to resume Eurofighter flights in late September, although the latter two will perform quick reaction alert sorties with their aircraft if required before this time. The current operational status of Saudi Arabia’s Typhoon fleet is unclear.