A mechanical problem caused a MiG-29K fighter aircraft from the Indian Navy to crash off the coast of Goa on October 12, 2022, during a normal mission. The pilot ejected safely and landed in the water, according to the Navy. While the pilot successfully ejected, he landed in the Arabian Sea near Goa and required rapid rescue. This is the latest incident where an ejection seat helped save a pilot’s life.

The ejection seat is hard, as if the seat cushion is squeezed unevenly due to the strong G forces encountered during ejection. The pilot’s spine will not be in the “proper position” before ejection. And a curved spine would certainly result in injury.

It includes a “survival kit” packaged in a box that must survive the collision with the ground. The survival kit includes numerous goods essential for immediate survival, such as a first aid kit, a morphine injection as a painkiller, certain high-energy compact foods, fishing baits, a knife, and occasionally an emergency radio.

With the use of Ejection Seats, pilots may safely evacuate a fighter jet and avert certain death if they are unable to save their aircraft. Here is how they operate.

In the jet era of high speeds, the problem of leaving the aircraft became more difficult – in particular, the risks of colliding with airframe elements when leaving the aircraft increased.

Pilots who declare “May Day” are immediately hoisted from their crashing aircraft. Once the danger has passed, ejection seats automatically release a parachute to enable pilots to descend safely. The whole procedure takes just a few seconds.

The catapult, rocket, restraints, and parachute are the primary components of the ejection seat, and they must all activate in a certain order and almost simultaneously.

If even one step goes badly, a pilot attempting to escape might be in serious jeopardy. Once a crew member activates the ejection procedure via a handle or other device, they will be out of the aircraft in less than one second.

Pulling on the ejection handles sends an electrical pulse that signals thrusters to blow the canopy. Or, open the hatch, spin it up and out into the airflow, or blast it out of the aircraft. Almost simultaneously, an explosive cartridge is detonated in the seat catapult cannon with the assistance of an under-seat rocket motor.

To protect their legs from debris, a leg restraint mechanism is activated. Sensors assess the aircraft’s speed and air pressure to decide when the parachute should be deployed.

For aircraft flying at high speeds and altitudes, the primary parachute’s deployment is delayed so that the pilot may reach denser air as rapidly as feasible. Instead, a smaller chute known as a drogue is deployed to decrease the pace of the fall and stabilise the motion so that the pilot is not thrown into a fatal spin. The primary parachute will deploy more rapidly at lower speeds and altitudes.

A seat separator motor fires after the parachute is opened, causing the seat to fall to its death while the pilot is safely lifted during a typical parachute landing.

Ejection from an aeroplane is a violent series of events that exposes the body to significant amounts of force. Therefore, engineers must counteract at least part of the G-forces. Pilots must experience a catapult-like ejection, which must occur at the optimal speed. If it occurs too rapidly, pilots run the danger of suffering a serious spinal injury.

When a pilot presses the eject lever, there is a one-in-three possibility that they may shatter their spine, and 20 to 30 per cent of those who survive the ejection procedure report some sort of spinal damage.

In response to this reoccurring problem, zero-zero ejection seats were developed. They are so named because they permit extraction at zero altitudes and zero wind speeds. Earlier Ejection seat designs could only operate successfully over a minimum altitude and velocity threshold.

New designs for ejection seats permit extraction at lower altitudes and speeds, hence decreasing the danger of spinal damage during ejections.

When pilots lose control of their damaged aircraft, ejection seats are always the final option. Flying a jet is inherently perilous. Thus pilots need additional safety precautions, such as ejection seats, for when the worst happens.

Martin-Baker of the United Kingdom is the global leader in the design of ejection seats. Indian aircraft, except the Russian ones, use these seats. However, there are situations where India might not like to use them in the domestic made aircraft, like in the case of exports to Argentina, which faces sanctions by the British. India is actively scouting for ejection seats from other sources, including the Russian ones. LCA Tejas might now also have an option of being fitted with a Russian Zvezda K-36DM “zero-zero” ejection seat or Collins Aerospace’s legacy ACES II ejection seat.

The F 35 is equipped with a Martin-Baker MK16-US16E ejection seat. It is one of the most advanced MB seats providing safe ejection even at ground level. The US16E is the only Qualified Ejection Seat that meets the US Government defined Neck Injury Criteria (NIC) across the pilot accommodation range. In the event of the pilot pulling the handle, there is a great likelihood of him/her surviving in a F 35.

The Indian Air Force (IAF) has purchased Mk.16 Ejection Seats for its HTT40 trainer aircraft, adding 212 Martin-Baker Seats to the existing 1,013 Seats in service with the IAF and Indian Navy.

Additionally, the IAF has recently placed orders for additional Tejas aircraft for Martin-Baker Mk. 16 ejection Seats.

It has been learnt that Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) has been in talks with Martin Baker for transfer of technology. However, the terms of the transfer of technology are creating friction. Through open sources HAL is keen on manufacturing ejection seats in India. Martin Baker has ceded to a select few transfer of technology which HAL believes are against the spirit of transfer of technology. HAL might not be able to sufficiently build indigenous ejection seats with such a limited and narrow transfer of technology.

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Article by GIRISH LINGANNA ,  cannot be republished Partially or Full without consent from Writer or