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Adhering strictly to the principle that if it isn’t broke why fix it, Martin-Baker is conducting high-speed ejection seat tests for 21st-century combat aircraft using derivatives of the same Gloster Meteor family the company first used for ejection tests 70 years ago.
In spite of its considerable vintage, the sturdy British attack aircraft has all the attributes required for a stable, high-speed test platform, says Andy Gent, Martin-Baker’s head of flying and chief pilot. “From a test perspective the Meteor is ideal. The tail boom is fairly long and the fin is not very high. The engines are also spaced out a fair way out along the wing, so the efflux from the ejection test and exhaust from the gun and rocket motor isn’t potentially going down the engine intakes,” he says.
Based at Martin-Baker’s Chalgrove, England, test facility, the fleet is made up of two Meteors, WA638 and WL419, both of which have been with the company since the 1960s. “They are doing the job so why would you ever go through the heartache of getting another aircraft?” says Gent. “If you did want another aircraft for testing you would probably want it to be a twin because we probably lose enough single-engine aircraft after takeoff through bird strikes. If you go through the expense of all the conversion for ejection-seat testing, get airborne and suck a red kite down the intake, then it’s an immediate ejection,” he adds.
The Company continues as a successful family run business, jointly managed by the twin sons of the late founder, Sir James Martin. The Joint Managing Directors, like their father, are engineers. They are great enthusiasts for the products and actively run the Company, day-to-day together with an extremely loyal and skilful workforce.