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Seminar Report

Submitted To: - Submitted By:-

Er. AMIT KAMBOJ Vijaydeep singh chauhan
Lecturer Roll no-1205358

Department of Applied Electronics &Instrumentation


Seth Jai Prakash Mukand Lal Institute

Of Engineering And Technology
Affiliated to Kurukshetra University , Kurukshetra
(An ISO 9000-2001 Certified Institute)

• ACKNOWLEDGEMENT…………………………………………………1

• CERTIFICATE…………………………………………………………….2

• INTRODUCTION…………………………………………………………3

• HISTORY………………………………………………………………….4

• ESCAPE SYSTEM………………………………………………………...9

• AIR FORCE EJECTION SEATS………………………………………….10

• EVENT TIME SEQUENCE……………………………………………….13

• MODE ENVELOPES……………………………………………………...14

• EJECTION EVENTS……………………………………………………...16


• MODES OF EJECTION……………………………………………………25

• TIMING AN EJECTION…………………………………………………...26

• EJECTION SEAT TERMS…………………………………………………29



• PILOT SAFETY…………………………………………………………….36

• SOURCES…………………………………………………………………..37

There is always a sense of gratitude which one expresses to other for the help and
timely services they render during all phases of life. I too would like to do it as I really
wish to express my gratitude towards all those who have been helpful to me.

Today after completing my seminar I feel a lot more relieved. I was very excited and bit
nervous. I would never have completed it if the staff member of Instrumentation&
Control Engineering Department had not helped me. I wish to express my humble
thanks towards all of them.

I am thankful to Er. AMIT KAMBOJ (Lecturer, Instrumentation Department) for

providing me the opportunity to present a seminar in Instrumentation Deptt,jmit and
especially for his invaluable guidance and frequent suggestions. Without him the
seminar presentation would not have been possible.




This is to certify that the seminar report entitled “Ejection seats” submitted to
Kurukshetra university, Kurukshetra in partial fulfillment of the requirement for the
award of the degree of B.Tech ,is original work carried out by Mr.Vijaydeep singh
chauhan with Roll no. 1205358 under my guidance.

The matter embodied in this seminar report is genuine work done by the student & has
not been submitted whether to this university or to any other university/ institute for the
fulfillment of requirement of any course of study.

Signature of student

Er. R.S Chauhan Er.Amit Kamboj

(Head of Department) (Seminar Guide)

I&CE Lect. I&CE



"Aviation in itself is not inherently dangerous.

But to an even greater degree than the sea,
it is terribly unforgiving of
any carelessness, incapacity, or neglect”.


Emergency escape from aircraft has been of utmost importance to the United States
Air Force since its inception. Regulations and policies to insure the safety and
survival of crewmembers have been a major thrust of the entire safety program in
the Air Force. The current sophisticated and advanced ejection seats with their
increased performance capabilities attests to the goal of improving survivability of
aircrews during escape from aircraft under adverse conditions throughout the flight
envelope. Engineering sciences have made major contributions to individualizing
the ejection seat operating mode to the specific circumstances of the ejection. Test
personnel have rigorously demonstrated that these systems do work. Medical
personnel have contributed to this effort by historically defining the limits within
which the human can tolerate the forces of ejection

A bungee-assisted escape from an aircraft took place in 1910. In 1916 Everard
Calthrop, an early inventor of parachutes, patented an ejector seat using
compressed air[1].

The modern pattern for an ejection seat was invented in Germany in 1938 and
perfected during World War II. Prior to this, the only means of escape from an
incapacitated aircraft was to jump clear ("bail-out"), and in many cases this was
difficult due to injury, the difficulty of egress from a confined space, g-forces, the
airflow past the aircraft and other factors.

The first ejection seats were developed independently during World War II by
Heinkel and SAAB. Early models were powered by compressed air and the first
aircraft to be fitted with such a system was the Heinkel He 280 prototype jet fighter
in 1940. One of the He 280 test pilots, Helmut Schenk, became the first person to
escape from a stricken aircraft with an ejection seat on January 13, 1942 after his
control surfaces iced up and became inoperable. However the He 280 never
reached production status. Thus, the first operational type to provide ejection seats
for the crew was the Heinkel He 219 Uhu night fighter in 1942.

In Sweden a version using compressed air was tested in 1941. A gunpowder

ejection seat was developed by Bofors tested in 1943 for the Saab 21. The first test
in the air was on a Saab 17 on 27 February 1944[2] and the first real use in July 29,
1946 after a mid-air collision between a J 21 and a J 22.[3] Saab 21 was the first
aircraft to have ejection seat as standard.

In late 1944, the Heinkel He 162 featured a new type of ejection seat, this time
fired by an explosive cartridge. In this system the seat rode on wheels set between
two pipes running up the back of the cockpit. When lowered into position, caps at
the top of the seat fitted over the pipes to close them. Cartridges, basically identical
to shotgun shells, were placed in the bottom of the pipes, facing upward. When
fired the gases would fill the pipes, "popping" the caps off the end and thereby
forcing the seat to ride up the pipes on its wheels, and out of the aircraft. By the
end of the war, the Do-335 Pfeil, Me-262 Schwalbe and Me-163 Komet also were
fitted with ejection seats.

After World War II, the need for such systems became pressing, as aircraft speeds

were getting ever higher, and it was not long before the sound barrier was broken.
Manual escape at such speeds would be impossible. The United States Army Air
Forces experimented with downward-ejecting systems operated by a spring, but it
was the work of the British company Martin-Baker that was to prove crucial.

The first live flight test of the Martin-Baker system took place on July 24, 1946,
when Bernard Lynch ejected from a Gloster Meteor Mk III. Shortly afterwards, on
August 17, 1946, 1st Sgt. Larry Lambert was the first live US ejectee. Martin-
Baker ejector seats were fitted to prototype and production aircraft from the late
1940s, and the first emergency use of such a seat occurred in 1949 during testing of
the Armstrong-Whitworth AW.52 Flying Wing.

Early seats used a solid propellant charge to eject the pilot and seat, by igniting the
charge inside a telescoping tube attached to the seat. Effectively the seat was fired
from the aircraft like a bullet from a gun. As jet speeds increased still further, this
method proved inadequate to get the pilot sufficiently clear of the airframe and
increasing the propellant risked damage to the occupant's spine, so experiments
with rocket propulsion began. The F-102 Delta Dagger was the first aircraft to be
fitted with a rocket propelled seat, in 1958. Martin-Baker developed a similar
design, using multiple rocket units feeding a single nozzle. This had the advantage
of being able to eject the pilot to a safe height even if the aircraft was on or very
near the ground.

In the early 1960s, deployment began of rocket-powered ejection seats designed

for use at supersonic speeds, in such planes as the F-106 Delta Dart. Six pilots have
ejected at speeds exceeding 700 knots (805mph) and the highest altitude a Martin-
Baker seat was deployed at was 57,000ft (from a Canberra in 1958). Following an
accident in the attempted launch of a D-21 drone, two SR-71 crew members
ejected at Mach 3.25 at an altitude of 80,000ft, the pilot successfully, however the
observer was fatally injured. Despite these records, most ejections occur at fairly
low speeds and altitudes, when the pilot can see that there is no hope of regaining
aircraft control before impact on the ground.

Egress Systems

A warning applied on the cockpit side of all aircraft using an ejection seat system.
Intended especially for the maintenance and emergency crews.
A warning applied on the cockpit side of all aircraft using an ejection seat system.
Intended especially for the maintenance and emergency crews.
Capt. Christopher Stricklin ejects from his F-16 aircraft with an ACES II ejection
seat, on September 14, 2003. Stricklin was not injured.
Capt. Christopher Stricklin ejects from his F-16 aircraft with an ACES II ejection
seat, on September 14, 2003. Stricklin was not injured.

The "standard" ejection system operates in two stages. First, the entire canopy or
hatch above the aviator is opened or jettisoned, and the seat and occupant are
launched through the opening. In most earlier aircraft this required two separate
actions by the aviator, while later egress system designs, such as the Advanced
Concept Ejection Seat model 2 (ACES II) will perform both functions on a single

The ACES II ejection seat is used in most of the United States Air Force's mainline
fighters, including the A-10, F-15, and F-16. The A-10 uses connected firing
handles that activate both the canopy jettison systems, followed by the seat
ejection. The F-15 has the same connected system as the A-10 Seat. Both handles
accomplish the same task, so pulling either one suffices. The F-16 has only one
rubber handle located between the pilot's knees, since the cockpit is too narrow for
side-mounted handles. Unlike the F-15 and A-10, however, the F-16 does NOT
have canopy breaking systems installed. The angle of the ejection seat inside the
aircraft is so extreme that a pilot's head would strike the canopy before any
installed canopy breakers would. Also, the canopy is constructed of highly durable
composite material which cannot be shattered by seat ejection.

Non-standard egress systems include Downward Track (used for some crew
positions in bomber aircraft, including the B-52 Stratofortress), Canopy Destruct
(CD) and Through-Canopy Penetration (TCP), Drag Extraction, Encapsulated Seat
and even Crew Capsule.
Early models of the F-104 Starfighter were equipped with a Downward Track
ejection seat due to the hazard of the T-tail. In order to make this work, the pilot
was equipped with "spurs" which were attached to cables that would pull the legs
inwards so the pilot could be ejected. Following this development, a number of
other egress systems began using leg-retractors as a way to prevent injuries to
flailing legs, and to provide a more stable center of gravity. Some models of the F-
104 were equipped with upward-ejecting seats, which led to several fatal accidents
when pilots trained on the downward-firing seats rolled inverted at low altitude and

Similarly, two of the six ejection seats on the B-52 Stratofortress fire downward,
through hatch openings on the bottom of the aircraft; The downward hatches are
released from the aircraft by a thruster that unlocks the hatch, gravity and wind
remove the hatch and arm the seat. The four seats on the forward upper deck fire
upwards (two of them, EWO and Gunner, facing the rear of the airplane) as usual.
Note that any such down-firing system is of no use on or near the ground unless
the aircraft is upsidedown at the time of the ejection.

Aircraft designed for low-level use sometimes have ejection seats which fire
through the canopy, as waiting for the canopy to be ejected is too slow. Many
aircraft types (e.g. BAe Hawk and the Harrier line of aircraft) use Canopy Destruct
systems, which have an explosive cord (MDC - Mild Detonation Cord or FLSC
-Flexible Linear Shaped Charge) embedded within the acrylic plastic of the
canopy. The MDC is initiated when the eject handle is pulled, and shatters the
canopy over the seat a few milliseconds before the seat is launched.

Through-Canopy Penetration is similar to Canopy Destruct, but a sharp spike on

the top of the seat, known as the "shell tooth," strikes the underside of the canopy
and shatters it. The A-10 Thunderbolt II is equipped with canopy breakers on either
side of its headrest in the event that the canopy fails to jettison. In ground
emergencies, a ground crew or pilot can use a breaker knife attached to the inside
of the canopy to shatter the transparency. The A-6 Intruder and EA-6 Prowler seats
are capable of ejecting through the canopy, with canopy jettison a separate option
if there is enough time.

CD and TCP systems cannot be used with canopies made of flexible materials,
such as the Lexan polycarbonate canopy used on the F-16.

Soviet Yakovlev Yak-38 VTOL naval fighter planes were equipped with
automatically activated ejection seats, mandated by the notorious unreliability of
their vertical lifting powerplants.

Drag Extraction is the lightest and simplest egress system available, and has been
used on many experimental aircraft, and even the Space Shuttle. Halfway between
simply "bailing out" and using explosive-eject systems, Drag Extraction uses the
airflow past the aircraft (or spacecraft) to move the aviator out of the cockpit and
away from the stricken craft on a guide rail. Some operate like a standard ejector
seat, by jettisoning the canopy, then deploying a drag chute into the airflow. That
chute pulls the occupant out of the aircraft, either with the seat or following release
of the seat straps, who then rides off the end of a rail extending far enough out to
help clear the structure. In the case of the Space Shuttle, the astronauts ride a long,
curved rail, blown by the wind against their bodies, then deploy their chutes after
free-falling to a safe altitude.

Encapsulated Seat egress systems were developed for use in the B-58 Hustler and
B-70 Valkyrie supersonic bombers. These seats were enclosed in an air-operated
clamshell, which permitted the aircrew to escape at airspeeds high enough to cause
bodily harm. These seats were designed to allow the pilot to control the plane even
with the clamshell closed, and the capsule would float in case of water landings.

Some aircraft designs, such as the General Dynamics F-111, do not have individual
ejection seats, but instead, the entire section of the airframe containing the crew
can be ejected as a single capsule. In this system, very powerful rockets are used,
and multiple large parachutes are used to bring the capsule down, in a manner very
similar to the Launch Escape System of the Apollo spacecraft. On landing, an
airbag system is used to cushion the landing, and this also acts as a flotation device
if the Crew Capsule lands in water.

Zero-zero ejection seat

A Zero-zero ejection seat is designed to safely extract upward and land its occupant
from a grounded stationary position (i.e., zero altitude and zero airspeed),
specifically from aircraft cockpits. The zero-zero capability was developed to help
aircrews escape upward from unrecoverable emergency situations during low
altitude and/or low speed flight as well as ground mishaps. Before this capability,
ejections had to be performed at minimum altitudes and airspeeds.

Zero-zero technology uses a small explosive charge to open the parachute canopy
quickly, so that reliance on airspeed and altitude is no longer required for proper
deployment of the parachute.


Ejection Seat Operation

With the advent of high-performance aircraft, the development of aircraft ejection

seats became necessary due to speeds that precluded safe manual bailout. Strong
windblast prevented clearing the aircraft and excessive G- forces immobilized
aircrew members thus prohibiting escape. The modern ejection seat having
undergone a series of refinements since its inception in l946 is today a highly
automated system that requires the occupant to only initiate the firing mechanism
to effect escape. Typically, the seat consists of a padded bucket, back, and headrest.
The seat is mounted on rails which guide the seat on its initial trajectory. Most
seats are propelled by rockets but the methods of restraint, seat separation, and
chute deployment will vary according to the various types of ejection seats.
Generally, escape is initiated by pulling a firing handle. In some seats a trigger
within the handle then must be squeezed to initiate ejection. As the ejection seat
travels up the rails, a leg restraint system activates. The development of rocket
propulsion has produced the higher trajectory necessary to clear aircraft structures
during high speed escape as well as escape during low speed and zero-zero (zero
velocity and zero altitude) ejections. Seat stabilization gyros have been
incorporated into recently developed ejection seats to cancel asymmetric forces
producing rotation and tumbling (l).

The Modern high technology ejection seat. (ACES I

Air Force Ejection Seats

The ejection seat for the T-37 is an individually activated ballistic seat rather than
the rocket-powered seat of most other jet aircraft. It thus provides a rapid escape
from the aircraft but with a limited escape envelope. The emergency minimum
ejection altitudes for a T-37 with no sink rate, level bank, and pitch are: (l) With an
Fl-B timer (l sec chute): 200 feet altitude and l20 knots indicated air speed (KIAS).
(2) With an F-lB zero delay lanyard connected: l00 feet altitude and l20 KIAS. The
seat should work at air speeds as high as 425 KIAS.
The T-37 seat accommodates a back-type parachute and is provided with an inertial
reel shoulder harness, an automatic opening lap belt, and a seat separator (butt
snapper). It can be manually adjusted up and down and has an emergency
disconnect unit in the lower right side. This unit contains the communication lead
and oxygen hose with quick disconnect fittings. The seat has a canopy piercer on
the top of the seat for through-the-canopy ejections. There are interconnected
handgrips on either side of the seat. Within each handgrip is a trigger which is
accessible only when the handgrips are in the full up position. Squeezing either
trigger initiates canopy jettison and the seat fires 0.33 seconds later. After a 1-
second delay, a seat initiator fires the HGU-l2/A lap belt and the seat separator
which provides an automatic and positive separation of the seat and the occupant.
The lap belt lanyard (gold key) attached to the seat belt activates the parachute
opening device, or pulls the D-handle via the zero-delay lanyard (2).

The T-38 ejection seat contains an ejection rocket catapult, a calf guard, two leg
braces, a shoulder harness inertia reel, automatic lap belt release, a head rest, a seat
separator system, a drogue chute, a drogue gun with five initiators, and a seat
adjusting unit. The seat height can be adjusted by an electrically operated actuator
via a toggle switch. The inertial reel can be locked by a control lever. When the
strap is free to reel in or out, it will lock at a minimum of 2Gs and a maximum of
3Gs but will return to free movement after relaxation of G forces. However, an
excessive G load on the strap will lock the reel and it will remain locked until the
crewmember resets the control lever. It also locks automatically during seat

The calf guard is hinge mounted and attaches to the bottom front of the seat and is
held in a stowed position. During ejection it is pulled downward into position
automatically. There is a hand grip and trigger on both sides of the seat, either of
which will activate the initiator and fire the rocket catapult for seat ejection.
Pulling either trigger first fires the canopy ejection initiator causing canopy
jettison. The inertial reel locks automatically and the seat catapult is activated
which ejects the seat from the aircraft. Approximately 0.2 seconds after catapult
firing, the drogue gun fires to deploy the drogue chute to stabilize the seat
trajectory. At 0.65 seconds after the seat leaves the floor of the aircraft, the seat
separator system is activated and that releases the lap belt and forces the occupant
away from the seat with the parachute. The parachute deploys shortly thereafter.
With this system, successful ejection is possible with 50 knots airspeed on the
ground. After parachute deployment, the survival kit will automatically deploy in
approximately 4 seconds. If the survival kit is in the manual mode, it must be
released manually with the handle on the right front center of the kit.

The weight of the pilot influences the performance of this system. Tests conducted
with mannequins weighing as much as 247 pounds were successful with this


system retaining its above 50 knots KIAS capability. Accelerative forces will vary

according to the weight of the pilot, with pilots weighing in the 5th percentile
experiencing l8-20 Gs and 95th percentile pilots experiencing l4-l6 Gs. Maximum
recommended airspeed for ejection is 500 KIAS (2).

The Martin-Baker seat was utilized in the F-4 and early A-10 aircraft. In 1967, as
ejections from F-4s increased, it became apparent that a means to reduce spinal
compression injuries caused by high onset rate of forces was needed. The Mark 5
seat was modified primarily through the addition of a rocket pack, lessening the
ejection acceleration acting on the spine. It was designated the Mark 7 seat.
Parachute deployment was aided by the use of a drogue chute. After the system had
been in use for some time, failure of the F-4 forward canopy to jettison at high
speeds indicated a need for additional force to insure positive jettison of the
canopy. This was accomplished as well as incorporating three ejection sequences
thus allowing the front seat to initiate dual ejection, aft seat initiated dual ejection,
and aft seat single ejection (3).

The Advanced Concept Ejection Seat (ACES II) is currently used in the A- l0, F-
l5, F-l6, F-117A, B-lB, and B-2 aircraft and incorporates many of the advanced
technology characteristics that have evolved in ejection seats. It has a zero-zero
capability, deploying a useful chute with ejection on the ground at standstill. In low
speed ejections, a gyro-controlled vernier rocket provides pitch stabilization. In
high speed ejection conditions additional stabilization is provided by a drogue
parachute. To achieve minimum-distance recovery in low-speed ejections, the
recovery parachute is deployed as the seat leaves the cockpit. At high speeds, the
drogue parachute is deployed immediately, quickly decelerating the seat and
crewmember to a suitable speed for recovery parachute deployment. The use of
multiple recovery modes permits the functions and timing of the recovery
subsystem to be selected for each mode allowing optimum performance throughout
the escape envelope. The recovery parachute and the drogue parachute subsystems
are entirely independent. In the low-speed mode, Mode l, deployment of the
recovery parachute is initiated as the seat and the crewmember are emerging from
the cockpit. Thus, the elapsed time from ejection initiation to parachute inflation is
minimized for the critical low-speed, low-altitude ejection conditions. In the high-
speed mode, Mode 2, the drogue parachute is needed to slow the seat and occupant
prior to recovery parachute deployment. The drogue is not severed until after the
recovery parachute has been deployed.

Mode 3 is used for high altitude ejection allowing the seat to descend or decelerate
into the Mode 2 parameters prior to Mode 2 recovery being initiated. Mode
selection is performed by the recovery sequencer in conjunction with an
environmental sensing subsystem which determines airspeed and altitude
conditions independent from aircraft systems


Mode envelopes

Mode 1 operation
Mode 2 operation

Mode 3 operation
ACES II functional breakdown


The time interval from the initial need to leave the aircraft (e.g., aircraft damage,
loss of controlled flight) until ejection is initiated is known as pre-ejection. During
certain critical phases of flight, such as during takeoff and landing, this can be
extremely short and not allow any preparation prior to ejection. However, in other
situations, such as in- flight emergencies, this time may be sufficient for making
changes to increase the probability of successful ejection. Speed can be reduced to
lessen the effects of windblast and flailing. Harness straps can be tightened and
body position can be adjusted to reduce injury from the forces encountered during
ejection (3).

The delay in making the decision to eject has been stressed in flying safety
programs since accident data has revealed that over one-third of the aircrew fatally
injured during ejection experienced the emergency at altitudes adequate for a
successful ejection. This delay has been related to human factors and educational
attempts to discourage fatal delays have been included in safety training (2).
Primary Acceleration
Ejection forces are primarily in the upward direction. The object is to attain the
greatest possible velocity over a specified period of time. The force which causes
the seat to move upward ranges between l2 and 20 Gs. The incidence of spinal
injury appears to increase markedly if the peak acceleration exceeds 25 Gs and if
the rate of onset is greater than 300 Gs per second. Many factors will determine the
actual value that an ejection seat will produce. The propulsion device will be
affected by temperature, the total weight of the occupant-seat assembly, the aircraft
velocity and relative airspeed at the time of ejection, and the altitude of ejection.
The accelerative forces will also be influenced by the complex mechanical
behavior of the pilot's body in its relationship to the seat as well as how various
body parts relate to each other. The human body may be viewed as a fluid-filled
body as it behaves in a dynamic fashion during the ejection sequence. Compression
forces may be initially elastic but will often exceed the elastic limits and thus
become "dynamic overshoots." These overshoots become important in addressing
the injuries sustained during the ejection sequence. The line of seat thrust does not
correspond to the long axis of the spine because the guide rails are tilted back at
approximately l2 to 20 degrees.

The net effect is to produce a vector of forward acceleration necessitating adequate

shoulder restraint and protection of the head. The rocket propelled seats have
extended the duration of upward thrust and allowed a reduction in the rate of onset
of the force to the body as compared to ballistic seats. The result has been an
associated reduction in the incidence of spinal injury (l).

Forces of Windblast
After the initial +Gz acceleration of the seat going up the rails, and differential plus
and minus Gz acceleration of "gradual" entry into the airstream, the occupant-seat
combination is rapidly decelerated due to ram air force from windblast. This force
is termed the Q force and varies with the density of the air and is proportional to
the surface area of the occupant- seat combination. Q forces are related to indicated
airspeed rather than true airspeed. These forces increase with the square of the
velocity thus producing the recommendation that pilots should reduce airspeed and
increase altitude prior to ejection (3). Q forces have been divided into those
produced by windblast, resulting in injuries such as petechial and subconjunctival
hemorrhage, and those injuries produced by flailing of the head and extremities.
Flail injuries are the result of the differential deceleration of the extremities in
relationship to the torso and seat. Flail injury occurs as a consequence of the
extremities leaving their initial position, building up substantial acceleration, and
then suddenly stopping. The sudden stop may produce a bone fracture, joint
dislocation, or total disarticulation (l). Review of combat ejections in Southeast
Asia revealed a strong correlation between high-speed ejection and flail injuries
(3). Tumbling of the ejection seat and its occupant has been effectively reduced by
use of stabilizer drogue chutes and gyro-controlled vernier rockets for positive
pitch stabilization (4).

Parachute Descent and Landing

This phase of the ejection sequence is critical to the outcome of the entire process
of escape and yet 90 per cent of all non-fatal injuries associated with escape occur
during landing. Although the techniques of landing by parachute are easily taught
and simulated by jumps from training towers, the incidence of sprained or
fractured ankles is estimated to be 50 per thousand descents (l). The correct
procedures for parachute landing are taught aircrew during several phases of their
training. Flight surgeons should become familiar with the proper procedures and
use of equipment. Parachute opening shock can be severe if the drogue chute fails
or the main parachute deploys prematurely.

High altitude escape is relatively rare, but if it occurs additional risk factors are
present. Opening shock is increased due to increased velocities that increase
terminal velocity to the point that damage to the parachute and injury to the
crewmember usually results. Additional hazards include hypoxia and low
temperatures. If the emergency oxygen supply in the emergency system
malfunctions or the oxygen mask is lost during escape then hypoxia becomes a
significant hazard. Protective flight clothing is usually adequate to prevent frostbite
but the loss of gloves can impair usage of fingers required for subsequent survival
activities (l).

High-speed escape close to the ground presents the most difficult of ejection
sequences. The initial thrust must be adequate to clear the rapidly moving tail
section. The windblast will be high and time delays will be necessarily short to
minimize loss of altitude before the main parachute deploys. The rocket seat, at
high-speed low altitude ejection, has a lengthened initial impulse, allowing more
time for the subsystems to operate, and slowing the seat to a safer velocity (3).


U.S. Air Force Captain Scott O'Grady was helping to enforce the no-fly zone over
northern Bosnia on June 2, 1995, when a Bosnian-Serb surface-to-air missile
(SAM) struck his F-16. With the plane disintegrating around him, O'Grady reached
down between his knees and grabbed the pull handle of his ejection seat. After a
loud bang caused by the canopy separating, O'Grady was blasted into the air along
with his seat. Soon after, his parachute deployed and, like 90 percent of pilots who
are forced to eject from their aircraft, O'Grady survived the ejection from his F-16.
Following six days of evading capture and eating insects for survival, O'Grady was
Photo courtesy U.S. Air Force

Ejecting from an aircraft is rare, but pilots sometimes have to resort to

pulling the ejection handle to save their lives.

Ejecting from an aircraft moving at speeds greater than the speed of sound (mach
1: 750 miles per hour / 1,207 kph) can be very dangerous. The force of ejecting at

those speeds can reach in excess of 20 Gs -- one G is the force of Earth's gravity.
At 20 Gs, a pilot experiences a force equal to 20 times his or her body weight,
which can cause severe injury and even death.

Most military aircraft, NASA research aircraft and some small commercial
airplanes are equipped with ejection seats to allow pilots to escape from damaged
or malfunctioning airplanes. In this edition we will learn about the parts that make
an ejection seat work, how the seat lifts a pilot out of a plane and about the physics
involved in ejecting.

Physics of Ejecting
Ejecting from an airplane is a violent sequence of events that places the
human body under an extreme amount of force. The primary factors
involved in an aircraft ejection are the force and acceleration of the
crewmember, according to Martin Herker, a former physics teacher. To
determine the force exerted on the person being ejected, we have to look
at Newton's second law of motion, which states that the acceleration of
an object depends on the force acting upon it and the mass of the object.


Newton's second law is represented as:

Force = Mass x Acceleration

Regarding a crewmember ejecting from a plane, M equals his or her body mass
plus the mass of the seat. A is equal to the acceleration created by the catapult and
the underseat rocket.

Acceleration is measured in terms of G, or gravity forces. Ejecting from an aircraft

is in the 5-G to 20-G range, depending on the type of ejection seat. As mentioned
in the introduction, 1 G is equal to the force of Earth's gravity and determines how
much we weigh. One G of acceleration is equal to 32 feet/second2 (9.8 m/s2). This
means that if you drop something off of a cliff, it will fall at a rate of 32

It's simple to determine the mass of the seat and the equipment attached to the seat.
The pilot's mass is the largest variable. A 180-pound person normally feels 180
pounds of force being applied to him when standing still. In a 20-G impact, that
same 180-pound person will feel 3,600 pounds of force being exerted. To learn
more about force.

"To determine the speed of the [ejection] seat at any point in time, one solves the
Newton equation knowing the force applied and the mass of the seat/occupant
system. The only other factors that are needed are the time of the force to be
applied and the initial velocity present (if any)," writes Herker on his Web site
describing the physics for understanding ejections. Herker provides this equation
for determining the speed of the seat:

Speed = Acceleration x Time + Initial speed

V(f) = AT + V(i)

Initial speed refers to either the climb or the sink rate of the aircraft. It may also be
determined by the initial step of the ejection process in a seat that combines an

explosive catapult and an underseat rocket. The seat speed must be high enough to
allow separation of the seat and person from the aircraft as quickly as possible in
order to clear the entire aircraft.

The use of an ejection seat is always a last resort when an aircraft is damaged and
the pilot has lost control. However, saving the lives of pilots is a higher priority
than saving planes, and sometimes an ejection is required in order to save a life.

Bailing Out
When a crewmember lifts the pull handle or yanks the face curtain down on
the ejection seat, it sets off a chain of events that propels the canopy away
from the plane and thrusts the crewmember safely out. Ejecting from a
plane takes no more than four seconds from the time the ejection handle is
pulled. The exact amount of time depends on the seat model and the
crewmember's body weight.


This ACES II ejection seat has a middle pull handle used to activate the ejection

Pulling the ejection handle on a seat sets off an explosive cartridge in the catapult
gun, launching the ejection seat into the air. As the seat rides up the guide rails, a
leg-restraint system is activated. These leg restraints are designed to protect the
crewmember's legs from getting caught or harmed by debris during the ejection.
An under seat rocket motor provides the force that lifts the crewmember to a safe
height, and this force is not outside normal human physiological limitations,
according to documents from Goodrich Corporation, a manufacturer of ejection
seats used by the U.S. military and NASA.
Prior to the ejection system launching, the canopy has to be jettisoned to allow the
crewmember to escape the cockpit. There are at least three ways that the canopy or
ceiling of the airplane can be blown to allow the crewmember to escape:

• Lifting the canopy - Bolts that are filled with an explosive charge are
detonated, detaching the canopy from the aircraft. Small rocket thrusters
attached on the forward lip of the canopy push the transparency out of the
way of the ejection path, according to Martin Herker, a former physics
teacher who has written about ejection seats and maintains a Web site
describing ejection seats.
• Shattering the canopy - To avoid the possibility of a crewmember colliding
with a canopy during ejection, some egress systems are designed to shatter
the canopy with an explosive. This is done by installing a detonating cord or
an explosive charge around or across the canopy. When it explodes, the
fragments of the canopy are moved out of the crewmember's path by the
• Explosive hatches - Planes without canopies will have an explosive hatch.
Explosive bolts are used to blow the hatch during an ejection.

The seat, parachute and survival pack are also ejected from the plane along with
the crewmember. Many seats, like Goodrich's ACES II (Advanced Concept
Ejection Seat, Model II), have a rocket motor fixed underneath the seat. After the
seat and crewmember have cleared the cockpit, this rocket will lift the
crewmember another 100 to 200 feet (30.5 to 61 m), depending on the
crewmember's weight.

This added propulsion allows the crewmember to clear the tail of the plane. As of
January 1998, there had been 463 ejections worldwide using the ACES II system,
according to the U.S. Air Force. More than 90 percent of those ejections were
successful. There were 42 fatalities.
Photo courtesy NASA

The parachutes opening on a Martin-Baker ejection seat during a test. The small
parachute at the top is called the drogue parachute.

Once out of the plane, a drogue gun in the seat fires a metal slug that pulls a small
parachute, called a drogue parachute, out of the top of the chair. This slows the
person's rate of descent and stabilizes the seat's altitude and trajectory. After a
specified amount of time, an altitude sensor causes the drogue parachute to pull the
main parachute from the pilot's chute pack. At this point, a seat-man-separator
motor fires and the seat falls away from the crewmember. The person then falls
back to Earth as with any parachute landing.

Modes of Ejection

In the ACES II ejection seat produced by Goodrich Corporation, there are three
possible ejection modes. The one used is determined by the aircraft's altitude and
airspeed at the time of ejection. These two parameters are measured by the
environmental sensor and recovery sequencer in the back of the ejection seat.

The environmental sensor senses the airspeed and altitude of the seat and sends
data to the recovery sequencer. When the ejection sequence begins, the seat travels
up the guide rails and exposes pitot tubes. Pitot tubes, named for physicist Henri
Pitot, are designed to measure air-pressure differences to determine the velocity of
the air. Data about the air flow is sent to the sequencer, which then selects from the
three modes of ejections:

• Mode 1: low altitude, low speed - Mode 1 is for ejections at speeds of less
than 250 knots (288 mph / 463 kph) and altitudes of less than 15,000 feet
(4,572 meters). The drogue parachute doesn't deploy in mode 1.
• Mode 2: low altitude, high speed - Mode 2 is for ejections at speeds of
more than 250 knots and altitudes of less than 15,000 feet.
• Mode 3: high altitude, any speed - Mode 3 is selected for any ejection at
an altitude greater than 15,000 feet.

Timing an Ejection

• 0 seconds - Pilot pulls cord; canopy is jettisoned or shattered; catapult

initiates, sending seat up rails.
• 0.15 seconds - Seat clears ejection rails at 50 feet (15 m) per second and is
clear of surrounding cockpit; rocket catapult ignites; vernier motor fires to
counteract any pitch changes; yaw motor fires, inducing slight yaw to assure
man-seat separation. (Burn time of all motors equals 0.10 seconds.)
• 0.50 seconds - Seat has lifted to about 100 to 200 feet (30.5 to 61 m) from
ejection altitude.
• 0.52 seconds - Seat-man-separator motor fires; cartridge fires to release
crewmember and his equipment from seat; drogue gun fires parachute.
• 2.5 to 4 seconds - Main parachute is fully deployed.


Take a Seat
It's important for many types of aircraft to have an ejection seat in case the
plane is damaged in battle or during testing and the pilot has to bail out to
save his or her life. Ejection seats are one of the most complex pieces of
equipment on any aircraft, and some consist of thousands of parts. The
purpose of the ejection seat is simple: To lift the pilot straight out of the
aircraft to a safe distance, then deploy a parachute to allow the pilot to land
safely on the ground.

Photo courtesy U.S. Department of Defense

An ejection seat being removed from an F-15C Eagle

To understand how an ejection seat works, you must first be familiar with the basic
components in any ejection system. Everything has to perform properly in a split
second and in a specific sequence to save a pilot's life.


If just one piece of critical equipment malfunctions, it could be fatal.

Ejection seats are placed into the cockpit and usually attach to rails via a set of
rollers on the edges of the seat. During an ejection, these rails guide the seat out of
the aircraft at a predetermined angle of ascent. Like any seat, the ejection seat's
basic anatomy consists of the bucket, back and headrest. Everything else is built
around these main components. Here are key devices of an ejection seat:

• Catapult
• Rocket
• Restraints
• Parachute

In the event of an ejection, the catapult fires the seat up the rails, the rocket fires to
propel the seat higher and the parachute opens to allow for a safe landing. In some
models, the rocket and catapult are combined into one device. These seats also
double as restraint systems for the crewmembers both during an ejection and
during normal operation.

Ejection seats are just one part of a larger system called the assisted egress
system. "Egress" means "a way out" or "exit." Another part of the overall egress
system is the plane's canopy, which has to be jettisoned prior to the ejection seat
being launched from the aircraft. Not all planes have canopies. Those that don't
will have escape hatches built into the roof of the plane. These hatches blow just
before the ejection seat is activated, giving crewmembers an escape portal.

Seats are activated through different methods. Some have pull handles on the
sides or in the middle of the seat. Others are activated when a crew member pulls a
face curtain down to cover and protect his or her face. In the next section, you will
find out what happens once the seat is activated

Ejection-seat Terms
• Bucket - This is the lower part of the ejection seat that contains the survival
• Canopy - This is the clear cover that encapsulates the cockpit of some
planes; it is often seen on military fighter jets.
• Catapult - Most ejections are initiated with this ballistic cartridge.
• Drogue parachute - This small parachute is deployed prior to the main
parachute; it designed to slow the ejection seat after exiting the aircraft. A
drogue parachute in an ACES II ejection seat has a 5-foot (1.5-m) diameter.
Others may be less than 2 feet (0.6 m) in diameter.

• Egress system - This refers to the entire ejection system, including seat
ejection, canopy jettisoning and emergency life-support equipment.
• Environmental sensor - This is an electronic device that tracks the airspeed
and altitude of the seat.
• Face curtain - Attached to the top of some seats, pilots pull this curtain
down to cover his or her face from debris. This curtain also holds the pilot's
head still during ejection.
• Recovery sequencer - This is the electronic device that controls the
sequence of events during ejection.
• Rocket catapult - This is a combination of a ballistic catapult and an under
seat rocket unit.
• Under seat rocket - Some seats have a rocket attached underneath to
provide additional lift after the catapult lifts the crewmember out of the
• Vernier rocket - Attached to a gyroscope, this rocket is mounted to the
bottom of the seat and controls the seat's pitch.
• Zero-zero ejection - This is an ejection on the ground when the aircraft is at
zero altitude and zero airspeed.

Ejection seats in other aircraft
The Kamov Ka-50 was the first helicopter to be fitted with an ejection seat. The
system is very similar to that of a conventional fixed-wing aircraft; the main rotors
are equipped with explosive bolts and are designed to disintegrate moments before
the seat rocket is fired.
The Lunar Lander Research Vehicle (LLRV)/Training Vehicle (LLTV) used
ejection seats; Neil Armstrong ejected on May 6, 1968; Joe Algranti & Stuart M.
Present, later.

Early flights of the US space shuttle were with a crew of two, both provided with
ejector seats, but the seats were disabled and then removed as the crew size was
increased.[citation needed]

The Soviet shuttle "Buran" was planned to be fitted with K-36RB (K-36M-11F35)
seats, but it was unmanned on its single flight; the seats were never installed.

The only spacecraft ever flown with installed ejection seats are the Space Shuttle,
the Soviet Vostok and American Gemini series. During the Vostok program, all the
returning cosmonauts would eject as their capsule descended under parachutes at
about 7,000 m (23,000 ft). This fact was kept secret for many years as the FAI
rules at the time required that a pilot must land with the spacecraft for the purposes
of FAI record books.

Passenger planes are unlikely to ever receive ejection technology. A single ejection
seat costs over ten times as much as a first-class ticket. Furthermore, the seat along
with all its components weigh almost four times the amount of an average
passenger. Any ejection would have to be initiated by the flight crew, as civilians
would require training on how to use an ejection seat and could not be controlled
enough to prevent them from inadvertently setting off the system. Even if an airline
did manage to accomplish all this, there would still be the undeniable fact that an
ejection would probably be fatal to children, those suffering from bone diseases,
and the elderly. Furthermore, there is the problem of having a system which, in a
few seconds or less, removes the entire roof of the aircraft, and the problem of
firing off several hundred seats in such a way that they do not collide.

However, some ultralight and single-engine general aviation aircraft have been
refitted with ballistically deployed parachutes recently. However these systems
cannot be considered "ejection" systems because the entire aircraft with occupants
is suspended by the chute.


The ejection seat has evolved into a complicated system with subsystems. Seat
improvement has improved the odds of survival, and expanded boundary limits for
successful ejection. The ability of the seat to monitor environmental factors has
allowed better control inputs, improving seat stability. The incidence of ejection
injuries is reduced by employing a complex acceleration profile. The profile is
impulsive and of high amplitude at the beginning and end of the acceleration
period, while relatively smooth and of low amplitude during the interposed major
time segment.

The next generation of escape systems will use controllable propulsion systems to
provide safe ejection over the expanded aircraft flight performance envelopes of
advanced aircraft. Continued research will only enhance the capability of future
ejection systems. Current research efforts are being directed toward solving the
problems associated with high speed and high altitude ejections.

Within the last 10 years, dramatic escapes from Russian fighter aircraft have
captured the attention of military pilots and aviation enthusiasts around the world.
The low-altitude ejection from a MiG-29 just prior to ground impact at the 1989
Paris Air Show and a pair of miraculous escapes from two exploding MiG-29s that
had collided over Fairford, England, in 1993, vividly demonstrated the potential
downside of flying high-performance, military aircraft. The pilots ejected
successfully thanks to the K-36D ejection seat designed and built by the Zvezda
Research, Development and Production Enterprise in Russia.

The K-36D ejection seat and its associated life support equipment are designed,
tested, and produced under the direction of Professor Guy Severin. Professor
Severin, a member of the prestigious Russian Academy of Science, has devoted his
life to developing and perfecting life-support and life-saving equipment for air and
space systems. His achievements include the design of the cosmonaut seats,
pressure suits, and the first extravehicular maneuvering unit for the Russian space
program; aeronautical fire suppression equipment; and escape systems for fighters,
bombers, VTOL aircraft, acrobatic aircraft, and the Russian Buran space shuttle.

The K-36D ejection seat provides directional stability and crew protection features
that significantly reduce the risk of injury during ejection, especially at the higher
speeds associated with fighter aircraft operations in wartime. Successful K-36D
operational ejections have occurred at speeds of 729 KEAS and Mach 2.6. The
aerodynamic forces encountered at high speeds can cause severe neck, spine, and
limb injuries. Our experience with Western ejection seats, which are
aerodynamically unstable and have little or no limb restraint, indicates that the risk
of major injury rises exponentially from about 350 KEAS to a high probability of
fatal injury near the seat's structural limit, usually about 600 KEAS. The fact that
the aerodynamic forces increase as the square of the velocity has made even
incremental improvement of the performance envelope very difficult.
Consequently, having an opportunity to test and evaluate an ejection seat with an
envelope that Professor Severin claimed provides safe escape up to 755 KEAS,
was one we couldn't pass up.

Engineers and scientists from the Air Force Research Laboratory's (AFRL) Human
Effectiveness Directorate and the US Navy's Air and Surface Warfare Centers first
evaluated the K-36D ejection seat in 1993 as part of a foreign equipment
comparative testing program sponsored by the Office of the Secretary of Defense.

Tests were conducted using Russian test facilities including a windblast facility

a vertical ejection tower, a rocket-propelled sled, and a MiG-25 aircraft.

The K-36D seat was ejected from the rocket sled at speeds as high as 730 KEAS
and from the MiG-25 at speeds up to Mach 2.5 and altitudes up to 56,000 ft.
Additional tests were then conducted at the Holloman AFB NM sled track to
demonstrate performance at low speed and adverse attitudes. This program, which
included 17 successive, successful tests, demonstrated that the performance of the
K-36D seat at these test conditions was superior to ejection seats used in US

A number of features are responsible for the superior performance of the Russian
seat. During ejection, telescoping booms are deployed from the seat to stabilize the
attitude of the seat from the time it leaves the aircraft until the seat and its occupant
decelerate to the speed where the recovery parachute is deployed and the occupant
is separated from the seat. The K-36D seat also deploys a windblast deflector
during ejections at airspeeds in excess of 430 KEAS. The windblast deflector
improves the airflow around the seat and contributes to windblast protection. Leg
lifting devices and arm and leg restraints are provided to prevent limb flail injuries
due to windblast forces. The limb restraints do not require the crew to hook up as
they enter the aircraft and do not restrict limb movement during normal flight

The successful results of the comparative-testing program led to a decision to adapt

this technology in the development of an ejection seat suitable for use in American
aircraft. AFRL contracted with Boeing North American (BNA) and their
subcontractor Zvezda to engage in an advanced development effort to demonstrate
a seat design that will meet US performance requirements. These requirements
include: reducing the seat weight by more than 50 lb, accommodating a larger
range of occupant weights and sizes, improving the performance of the seat under
adverse attitudes with high descent rates, integrating US life support equipment,
reducing life-cycle costs, and improving seat producibility and maintainability. The
seat that has been developed to demonstrate the feasibility of meeting these
requirements uses many of the operationally proven components of the K-36D seat
including the stabilization booms, windblast flow deflector, and arm and leg
restraints. The seat structure has been redesigned to reduce weight, increase the
vertical adjustment range, and provide fore-aft tilt of the seat back.
The headrest/parachute container is smaller to improve the occupant's ability to

six." The ejection catapult and rocket have been redesigned to control the seat
acceleration for a wider range of occupant weights and sizes. Zvezda is meeting
the challenge of providing improved performance for ejections from adverse
attitudes with high descent rates by incorporating an electronic control system and

a set of small, roll attitude control rockets. The control system uses data received
from the aircraft to establish the best seat operating parameters for safe crew

Zvezda was very proactive in their efforts to evaluate the effectiveness of the new
seat design. They have developed a rocket-propelled sled with an aircraft forebody
that can rapidly roll during the ejection. This facility is similar to the sled and for
body that will be used to test the seat at Holloman AFB later this year. Zvezda has
also developed a flying test bed to evaluate the performance of the seat at adverse
roll attitudes. The testbed consists of a cockpit mounted on the tail of an An-12
transport. The cockpit can be rotated to specific roll angles prior to the ejection. At
the time that this article was written, Zvezda had completed 21 successful tests
using these facilities as well as the MiG-25 test aircraft used in the earlier
comparative-testing program.

Combining Russia's uniquely capable K-36D ejection seat and escape system
design expertise with advanced US pyrotechnics, improved life support equipment,
and electronic controls technologies offers the opportunity to provide US aircrews
an affordable seat with unparalleled safe escape capability.

Pilot safety

The purpose of an ejection seat is pilot survival, not pilot comfort. Many pilots
have suffered career-ending injuries while using ejection seats, including crushed
vertebrae. The pilot typically experiences an acceleration of about 12 to 14 g (117
to 137 m/s²). Western seats usually impose lighter loads on the pilots; 1960s-70s
era ex-Soviet technology often goes up to 20-22 g (with SM-1 and KM-1 gunbarrel
type ejection seats). Career-ending injuries are quite common, partly because
eastern military pilots usually continue to fly into their late 40s or early 50s and
end (retire) their flying career afterward, while most western jet pilots retire from
the military in their late 30s.
Lt. William Belden ejects from an A-4 Skyhawk on the deck of the Shangri-La.
Lt. William Belden ejects from an A-4 Skyhawk on the deck of the Shangri-La.

The Russian K-36 ejector seat manufactured by NPP Zvezda is considered by

many as the world's most advanced. It was studied at length by the US Navy and
Airforce and IBP Aircraft opened up a factory in the US to manufacture it for the
F-22 Raptor and the Joint Strike Fighter. The US Government however selected the
Martin Baker seat from the UK in a political move for the new US fighters. The
amazing capabilities of the K-36 were convincingly demonstrated at the Fairford
Air Show on 24 July 1993 when the pilots of two MiG 29 fighters successfully
ejected after a mid-air collision[4].

By January 2008, Martin-Baker ejection seats had saved 7219 lives[5]. They give
survivors a unique necktie. The total figure for all types of ejector seats is
unknown, but must be considerably higher.