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A Pilot’s Best Friend: The Ejection Seat

Written by on Wednesday, March 21st, 2012

For the US Army, failing equipment can be hazardous. A flat tire could strand soldiers in enemy territories for hours, and faulty systems on a tank might cause the vehicle’s engines to falter. For Air Force personnel, malfunctioning equipment reaches a whole new level of danger.

Piloting an aircraft can be an all-or-nothing endeavor when it comes to safety. At best, a pilot can return to base and land his aircraft safely; at worst, the aircraft could be destroyed in the air. Unfortunately, there isn’t a lot of middle ground between these two extremes. If a pilot is lucky, he may be able to crash land a damaged or malfunctioning aircraft, but the odds of surviving such a crash are not very high.

Luckily, modern pilots are sitting on an ace that gives them a last resort chance at surviving a damaged or malfunctioning aircraft: the ejection seat. Part rocket-powered chair, part parachute, the ejector seat launches pilots up and away from their aircraft before deploying a parachute.

Prototype ejector seats first appeared in the early 1900s, though it took decades for the idea to catch on. Back then, the relatively slow speeds of aircraft allowed for most bail outs to be done manually, as there was frequently enough time for a pilot to jump from the cockpit before a crash. As the top speeds of aircraft buy antibiotics canada gradually increased, so too did the need for a much more rapid escape system.

It wasn’t until World War II was in full swing that engineers perfected a much more reliable ejector seat design. The earliest systems used compressed air to launch the pilot out of the cockpit, but systems with explosives were soon to follow. Since then, specialized ejector seats have been designed for supersonic aircraft.

The ejector seats on modern aircraft are just as advanced as the jet’s engines, weapons, or controls. When fired, ejector seats propel the pilots with such speed that they typically experience between 12 to 22 g (1 g is the force of gravity, so 2 g is twice Earth’s gravity). Ejector seats can successfully save pilots at altitudes as low as 140 feet, or as high as 25 kilometers — at speeds as slow as 1 mph or as fast as Mach 3.

Ejector seat technology continues to advance, and the number of pilots saved by this technology grows steadily. The number of pilots spared by this device numbers well into the thousands, though the exact number is unknown. Overall, the ejection seat has proven to be one of the single most important pilot-focused pieces of aviation, because it could be the only thing capable of saving a pilot’s life at such high speeds.

If you want advice about the world of military aviation, there’s no better people to turn to than men and women who have sat in the cockpit and flown some of the world’s most advanced aircraft. With over 50 current and ex-warfighters on call, Strike Fighter Consulting Inc. can give you access to up-to-date, first-hand technical and tactical expertise.

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