Military Aviation

Former Ejection Seat Maintainer explains why “Ejection is a Punishment” for Military Pilots

‘Every aviator knows in their heart that nobody would eject unless it’s absolutely necessary because it’s THE final action,’ Umair Raja, former Ejection Seat Maintainer.

In aircraft, an ejection seat is system designed to rescue the pilot or other crew of an aircraft in an emergency. In most designs, the aircraft canopy comes off and the seat is propelled out of the aircraft by an explosive charge or rocket motor, carrying the pilot with it. Once clear of the aircraft, the ejection seat deploys a parachute. In two seat aircraft, the seats are ejected at different angles to avoid a collision.

Before ejection seats, pilots would have to remove the aircraft canopy manually to climb and jump out.

Ejection seats can save lives.

But does a military pilot get some kind of punishment if he ejects from a plane?

‘Ejection is a punishment in itself! It possibly saves a life but very few walk away without short/long term injuries,’ Umair Raja, former Ejection Seat Maintainer, says on Quora. ‘Every aviator knows in their heart that nobody would eject unless it’s absolutely necessary because it’s THE final action. There are numerous cases where hesitation to initiate ejection by aircrew cost them their life.

‘Ejection is almost never a thoughtful action and very few ejections take place under conditions when pilot gets to assess the situation. Pilots are trained to make it a reflex action and are taught about ejection scenarios. They are periodically trained on ejection seat mock ups to “pull the handle.” This is done to train their minds. So that when it finally comes to that they shouldn’t hesitate as milliseconds make difference between life and death.

‘Ejection seats are more than an egress system, they are designed as a comprehensive survival pack. Followed by safe egress of pilot from the aircraft, ejection seat contains all kinds of survival tools i.e., oxygen bottle for high altitude ejection, radio, flares, first aid kit, eatables, inflatable dingy and even a pistol.’

Raja continues;

‘Ejection sequence exerts intense pressure on spine, causing serious compression in few seconds. Typical ejection seat operation time ranges from 2 to 2.5 seconds. During this short time pilot experiences acceleration up to 12 to 16 g. In certains seats such as Russian K-36 which are capable of inverted attitude ejections at as low as 100 ft, the acceleration could reach as high as 25 g. No punishment can beat this!

‘Ejection seats are optimized to operate at minimum speed and altitude. This is called 0/0 ejection, meaning a seat designed to perform safe ejection and man-seat separation at 0 feet and 0 Knots. That’s because after successful clearance from aircraft, seat stabilization and man-seat separation phase starts. The seat mechanism is designed to minimize stabilization and separation time as it is critical in low altitude and/or slow speed ejection.’

Raja concludes;

‘I’m not sure what will happen at very high speeds such as Mach 3 but such situations hardly arise but it will definitely affect the occupant. Ejection seats are timed to deploy a drogue shoot immediately after clearing aircraft, that slows down the seat and stabilize it. Additionally, a barometric device times the altitude of main parachute deployment.’

Photo credit: SAFRAN-Martin Baker and U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Bennie J. Davis III

Dario Leone

Dario Leone is an aviation, defense and military writer. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviation Geek Club” one of the world’s most read military aviation blogs. His writing has appeared in The National Interest and other news media. He has reported from Europe and flown Super Puma and Cougar helicopters with the Swiss Air Force.

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