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Video - The explosive secrets of ejection seats

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It’s well known, there are good days, and bad. Captain Brian Bews of the Canadian Armed Forces had bitter experience in the summer of 2010 during an aerobatic exercise. At 90 metres (almost 300 feet) above ground. The sudden stop of one of its engines suddenly rendered his F-18 completely uncontrollable, and forced him to eject. He emerged unscathed.

Ejection seats appeared in the cockpits of fighter aircraft in the early 40’s. Of the some 3,000 pieces that make up this MK-16 made by the British manufacturer Martin Baker: four areas deserve a closer look.

The first is located in the lower part, and contains the survival pack, and is equipped with aerodynamic surfaces which are deployed upon ejection to stabilize the seat the instant it leaves the plane. Just above, between the legs of the pilot, is the ejection handle. To trigger the emergency evacuation, the pilot only has to pull; a device that also operates the rear seat on two-seater aircraft. The seat, strictly speaking, has a rocket motor or a pyrotechnic ejection system that ensures the ejection. It’s connected to the pilot’s the shoulder harness and keeps him/her in the correct position at the time of ejection.The fourth and final area is in the upper part of the seat, above the pilot's head. There, we find the “Egress area” in the canopy in case the pilot has an exit problem, together with Pitot probes which assess the speed of the seat.

The ejection process is fast, very fast. Its speed is 20 m/s (65 ft/s) per second. In other words, there are less than two seconds between the time the handle is pulled and the deployment of the parachute, like this.

And you cannot stop progress. Nowadays with some seats it’s possible to eject from a stationary aircraft on the ground; in case of severe fire during the engine start for example. They are called "zero-zero" seats in relation to the altitude and speed at which they can be triggered.

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