For the third time in 10 years Russian display pilots owe their lives to the spectacular capability of an ejection seat - the Zvezda K-36DM.

Yesterday's dramatic incident, in which the two airmen were catapulted from the cockpit of their Su-30MK just 150ft (45m) from the ground, mirrored a MiG-29 accident here at Paris 10 years ago.

And two MiG-29 pilots were saved when their aircraft were involved in a mid-air collision at Fairford International Air Tattoo back in 1993.

The seats, which are fitted in all modern Russian fighters, have also attracted the attention of the US Air Force. Sled tests in the USA have confirmed that the K-36 exceeds the performance of existing Western ejection seats.

The USA has even studied fitting a lightweight version of the Russian seat in the Joint Strike Fighter.

Zvezda's Alexei Ptcheline says it would have taken just 0.2s from pulling the seat's ejection handle to canopy jettison. Key features of the seat are a pyrotechnic-powered restraint system that locks the pilot in place and telescoping booms that stabilise the seat very quickly.

"Russian ejector seats are the best in the world," acknowledged show organiser Edmond Marchegay.

Source: Flight Daily News