On the 20th October 1995 I strapped into a Sea Harrier FA2 for a routine post engine change test flight at RNAS Yeovilton. As dusk approached I slammed to full power for a short take off, made a mental note of engine performance numbers, then as the jet leapt forwards there was an almighty bang. Unknown to me at the time, one of my LP fan blades had let go right at the root, subsequently destroying the engine, puncturing fuel tanks and cutting hydraulic lines in the process. All then seemed to go quiet, I could see fire in my mirrors, the steering failed and the aeroplane left the runway for the grass. Amongst my first thoughts were that I would let the jet stop on the grass, and climb over the side to safety. As the jet slowed to a stop, the fire moved forward to engulf the cockpit area so opening the canopy looked like a bad idea. I checked my straps, visor and posture, closed my eyes tight and pulled the handle. Aware of a second bang and a brief tumbling sensation, followed by a reassuring tug at my shoulders, I opened my eyes to find myself under a full chute, around a hundred feet above the runway.
I landed uninjured, and feeling euphoria like I have never felt. I recall babbling like a three badge parrot* and not sleeping for the next 24 hours in my elated state. I was back in the air a week later, and as was the way of things, got on with the job I loved and didn’t give my ejection much more thought. It has only been many years later that I have paused to seriously ponder on where I would, or wouldn’t, have been now, had it not been for that incredible seat. Thank you Martin-Baker.
* In Naval parlance .. a very talkative parrot indeed