NPP Zvezda, a Russian company well known for aviation and space life support systems in its homeland, has patented a lightweight ejection seat for general aviation aircraft.

In-flight escape from light aircraft is difficult, slow and risky, and as a result most do not routinely carry parachutes, relying instead on the pilot making a successful forced landing. The reason the ejection seat – standard fit in military strike aircraft and fighters – is not used in general aviation is the unit’s complexity, high price and weight.

The NPP Zvezda unit, however, weighs only 16kg, claims the company. Unlike military seats – most of which rely on an initial acceleration provided by explosive cartridges, followed by rocket thrust to continue acceleration outside the aircraft – this device is accelerated by high pressure air from a cylinder directed into a metal telescopic ram integrated with the seat. The pneumatic system releases catches to eject the cockpit canopy, then pushes the seat upward, the ram extending out into the slipstream, until the seat and its occupant is clear of the tailplane. Then a drogue chute automatically deploys and pulls the parachute out into the passing air. The whole sequence, says the company, takes “less than a second”.

NPP Zvezda says it intends to market the system outside Russia but has not done so yet.