A coroner today slammed safety pins in an ejector seat as "useless" as he criticised a manufacturer for failing to warn the RAF of defects which led to the death of a Red Arrows pilot, writes the Press Association.
Flight Lieutenant Sean Cunningham, 35, was killed after he was accidentally ejected 220ft into the air from his Hawk T1 aircraft while on the ground at RAF Scampton on November 8 2011.
The South African-born pilot remained attached to his seat and fell unrestrained by the main parachute to the ground. He suffered non-survivable injuries, in particular to his brain and cardiovascular system.
Recording a narrative verdict into the death, Central Lincolnshire coroner Stuart Fisher criticised manufacturer Martin Baker for failing to inform the RAF of risks associated with the seat.
The inquest, held in Lincoln, heard that the ejection seat firing handle had been left in an unsafe position which meant it could accidentally activate the seat.
Mr Fisher said the safety pin mechanism was "entirely useless" and that it was "likely to mislead".
Tests of the MK 10 Martin Baker seat had showed that the safety pin could be inserted even when the seat was in an unsafe position; giving the impression the seat was safe, the coroner said.
However the coroner noted that the failure of the handle should not have proved fatal as the parachute should have opened when Flt Lt Cunningham was ejected.
Mr Fisher also criticised Martin Baker for a "serious failure of communication" relating to known risks associated with over-tightening of crucial nuts and bolts which could "hinder or prevent" the deployment of the main parachute.
Despite being aware of the risks since 1990, Martin Baker failed to warn the Ministry of Defence, the coroner said.
Mr Fisher said: "There was a very serious failure of communication by Martin Baker (the manufacturer) in my view. It is unexplained by the evidence. It seems there is no logic to warn and inform some but not others."
Flt Lt Cunningham's father Jim said: "We welcome the conclusions of the coroner, which confirm what we knew all along, which is that Sean was blameless and his tragic death was preventable."
Mr Fisher said the RAF had failed to take "sufficient steps" to bring the risk to the attention of all the air and ground crew who worked on the aircraft.
In a statement released after the inquest, Martin Baker Aircraft Limited, said: "We would like to extend our sincere condolences to Flt Lt Cunningham's family and friends."
Red Arrows plane crashes near Bournemouth Airport
Passenger plane flies into RAF 'war games'