|Industry||Aircraft ejection systems|
|Founder||Sir James Martin|
Captain Valentine Baker
|Headquarters||Denham, Buckinghamshire, UK|
Martin-Baker Aircraft Co. Ltd. is a British manufacturer of ejection seats and safety-related equipment for aviation. The company's origins were originally as an aircraft manufacturer before becoming a pioneer in the field of ejection seats. The company's headquarters are in Higher Denham, Buckinghamshire, England with other sites in France, Italy and the United States.
Martin-Baker supplies ejection seats for 93 air forces worldwide. Martin-Baker seats have been fitted into over 200 fixed-wing and rotary types with the most recent being the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II programme.
Martin-Baker also manufactures what it calls "crashworthy" seats for helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft. As of 2012[update], over 20,000 crashworthy seats have been delivered. The Martin-Baker company continues as a family-run business, run by the two sons of the late Sir James Martin.
"Martin's Aircraft Works" was founded at Denham by James Martin and Captain Valentine Baker with financial help from Francis Francis. The company was building a prototype aircraft, the M.B.1, using the design patents for aircraft structures held by Martin. On 17 August 1934 the Martin-Baker Aircraft Company was formed to continue the work of aircraft development. 
Martin and Baker designed an unconventional, two-seat, low-wing monoplane design in the early 1930s as the MB1. This was powered by a de Havilland Gipsy engine mounted in the fuselage behind the seats and driving a fixed pitch propeller through a shaft running horizontally between the pilot and passenger. The project was abandoned due to financial constraints, although the fuselage and engine installation had been completed. Martin-Baker also constructed an autogyro designed by Raoul Hafner. This, their first complete aircraft project, was later tested by Captain Baker at Heston Aerodrome.
In 1935, Martin and Baker designed and flew their Martin-Baker M.B.1, a two-seat light touring aircraft. Their first military design was the Martin-Baker M.B.2, a Napier Dagger–powered fighter that flew in 1938. It was a private venture to meet Air Ministry Specification F.5/34 for a fighter for service in the tropics. The M.B.2 was tested but neither it nor other designs to F.5/34 were adopted.
- Martin-Baker M.B.3 (1942): a six-cannon fighter design, powered by a Napier Sabre. Baker was killed in a crash while testing the prototype.
- Martin-Baker M.B.4 (1943): a Rolls-Royce Griffon-engined fighter, cancelled on the drawing board.
The Martin-Baker M.B.5 which first flew in 1944 had started out as the second MB3 prototype but was extensively redesigned with a tubular steel fuselage. It used the Griffon engine driving contra-rotating propellers.
- Martin-Baker M.B.6 (1945): a Second World War jet fighter project with a swing-arm, 0/0 spring-loaded ejection seat.
- Martin-Baker M.B.7 (1946) Black Bess: a postwar interceptor/high-speed test aircraft concept. Small flying models were made but the concept was cancelled in 1947.
Martin-Baker manufactured aircraft components, including retrofit improvements to the ammunition belt feeds and armoured seats for Supermarine Spitfires, throughout the Second World War. In 1944 the company was approached by the Ministry of Aircraft Production to investigate ejection systems enabling pilots to bail out safely from high-speed fighter aircraft.
Martin-Baker investigated ejection seats from 1934 onwards, several years before Germany and Sweden proposed similar systems in 1938. The company concluded that an explosive-powered ejection seat was the best solution. In particular, Baker's death in 1942 during a test flight of the MB3 affected Martin so much that pilot safety became his primary focus and led to the later reorganisation of the company to focus primarily on ejection seats.
In 1944, James Martin was asked by the Ministry of Aircraft Production to develop methods for fighter pilots to escape their aircraft. Martin decided that the best method involved ejection of the seat with the occupant sitting in it, aided by an explosive charge. After ejection, the pilot would separate from the seat and open his parachute by pulling a ripcord in the usual way.
At that time there was little information on how much upward thrust the human body could withstand. Data relating to "g" forces in catapult launching of aircraft involved horizontal thrust and was therefore inapplicable to the new problem. Tests would have to be conducted to find out how much upward "g" force a person could tolerate. These were done by shooting a seat up a near-vertical path, loading the seat to represent the weight of the occupant, and measuring the accelerations involved.
A 5-metre (16 foot) test rig was built in the form of a tripod, one of the legs being in the form of guide rails. The seat was propelled up the guide rails by a gun, consisting of two telescopic tubes energised by an explosive cartridge. The guide rails were provided with ratchet stops every 75mm (3 inches), so that the seat was automatically arrested at the top of its travel.
Studies were conducted to find the limits of upward acceleration that the human body could stand. The first dummy shot with the seat loaded to 200lb was made on 20 January 1945, and four days later one of the company’s experimental fitters, Bernard Lynch, undertook the first "live" ride, being shot up the rig to a height of 4 feet 8inches. In three further tests, the power of the cartridge was progressively increased until a height of 10 feet was reached, at which stage Lynch reported the onset of considerable physical discomfort. The first seat was successfully live-tested by Lynch on 24 July 1946, who ejected from a Gloster Meteor travelling at 320 miles per hour (510 km/h) IAS at 8,000 feet (2,400 m) over Chalgrove Airfield in Oxfordshire.
The first use of an ejection seat in a practical application by a British pilot involved the Armstrong Whitworth A.W.52 flying wing experimental aircraft in May 1949.
Martin-Baker was a pioneer in expanding the operational envelope of the ejection seat to enable it to be used at low altitudes and airspeeds, leading eventually to a "zero-zero" capability.
The Martin-Baker company once used its own airfield, Chalgrove Airfield, in Oxfordshire for operational testing of ejection seats. In 2016, ejection tests were carried out at Cazaux Air Base; the company's Meteor aircraft testbeds were flown from Chalgrove to France for them.
Two Gloster Meteor T.7 aircraft, WL419 and WA638, remain in service with the company as flying testbeds. Another Meteor (WA634), used in early development of ejection seats, is retained at the RAF Museum at RAF Cosford.
Ejection Tie Club
Martin-Baker also sponsors an "Ejection Tie Club," producing a tie, patch, certificate, tie pin and membership card for those whose lives have been saved by a Martin-Baker ejection seat. As of 2018[update], there are now over 6,000 registered members of the club since it was founded in 1957.
Red Arrows pilot incident
In 2011, Red Arrows pilot Flt. Lt. Sean Cunningham was ejected from his Hawk T1 jet on the ground at RAF Scampton. The parachute failed to deploy and the South African-born Cunningham was killed. On 22 January 2018, company director John Martin entered a guilty plea to breaching Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 on behalf of Martin-Baker wherein he admitted that the company had been aware of a technical problem with the ejector seat since 1990, but failed to notify the RAF. It transpired that both MoD and the Health and Safety Executive had withheld evidence showing the company had regularly provided the necessary information to MoD since, at least, 1958. The primary evidence was in the form of an RAF training film. Had the instructions in the film been followed, Flt Lt Cunningham's parachute would have opened. It further emerged that MoD had instructed its staff not to implement this training, and re-issued this instruction after the accident. The lack of any notification in 1990 was not a root cause. The refusal to implement Martin-Baker's servicing instructions was.
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Martin-Baker.|
- Official website
- Electronic Library, see Propulsion Systems Contribution to Success of Aircrew Emergency Escape Systems (PDF File, pay site)
- Exit In Extremis a 1948 Flight article
- At low altitudes each second is vital - 150ft. 600mph a 1954 Flight advertisement for Martin-Baker ejection seats
- Seat and Aircraft - 930 lives saved a 1965 Flight advertisement for the Martin-Baker Mk. 6HA zero-zero ejection seat as fitted in the Hawker Siddeley Kestrel
- VTOL a 1966 Flight advertisement for Martin-Baker zero-speed zero altitude ('zero-zero') ejections seats