Probe into Red Arrows pilot Sean Cunningham’s death

An inquest into the death of Red Arrows pilot Flt Lt Sean Cunningham in November 2011 will focus on how and why his seat ejected.

A pre-inquest review at Lincoln Cathedral Centre on Thursday, August 22, heard that two separate faults could have led to his death.

One fault related to possible design issues with the firing handle of the ejector seat and how it was triggered while on the ground at RAF Scampton.

The pilot was shot 200 feet into the air, but a second fault meant his main parachute failed to deploy, although a smaller ‘drogue parachute’ did engage.

Flt Lt Cunningham was injured after being ejected from his Hawk T1 aircraft fitted with the Mk10 Martin Baker-built ejection seat. He died later in hospital.

The planes were sealed off by investigators after the fatal incident which killed Flt Lft Cunningham. Photo: Steve Hill

The planes were sealed off by investigators after the fatal incident which killed Flt Lft Cunningham. Photo: Steve Hill

A full inquest into the incident will start on January 9, 2014, and is expected to take three weeks. Some 40 witnesses will take part in the inquest.

The ejection which led to the pilot’s death was also caught on video by a visitor on the day, but the footage might not be shown due to its distressing nature.

The Crown Prosecution Service previously decided that no charges should be brought in this case, while the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) is still investigating.

In 2011 the Red Arrows lost two pilots: Flt Lt Cunningham in November, and lt Lt Jon Egging earlier in August at an air show near Bournemouth airport in Dorset.