I spent 26 years in the RAF and spent many of those servicing the ejection seats of Harrier GR3/T4 and GR5s, Hawk Mk T1A and the Tornado F3 . To be fair, I only “flight-line serviced” the seats on the Harriers as I was an SAC at the time; in those days, by virtue of not having Technician status, SACs weren’t authorised to conduct anything other than ‘Before Flight’, ‘Turn Round’, ‘After Flight’ and ‘Safe For Maint’ servicing of the ejection seats. However, I helped install/remove the ejection seats from the Hawk and the Tornado, albeit still as an SAC when on the Hawks, as some more experienced of us were given special authorisation by OC Eng due to a severe lack of Technician manpower. By the time I worked on the Tornado, I’d reached the dizzy heights of JT and so was authorised by dint of the rank and the training courses.
Thankfully I never had one of my seats used in anger, but I was utterly satisfied that if every other system in the aircraft failed, my seat would save the aircrews’ lives. I will be forever proud that pilots and navigators (and the occasional pax) trusted their lives to me whenever they flew in an aircraft to which I’d fitted the seats and components. To this day I still think that is my greatest achievement; I’ve gone on to gain an MSc and achieve my Chartered Engineer status, but nothing compares to the pride I feel when I look back at my time fitting and removing ejection seats.
As a fitting end to my RAF career, my very last day in uniform (20 Aug 2014) was spent sat in the back of a Typhoon, sat on one of your seats. We spent 2 hours doing a performance take-off from Coningsby, refuelling from the tanker aircraft on the opposite wing to the fully live-armed QRA jet which was also refuelling at the time, and then flying low, fast and loud over many of the RAF stations I had served at. We flew over to Wittering and on to Valley (I think we went past Cosford, but can’t be sure – hell, why not, it’s on the way), down to St Athan, a quick beat-up of Boscombe Down then back to Coningsby (I was gutted we couldn’t fit in a fly-past of St Mawgan to check out Watergate Bay from 500 feet!). Four months later I started my civvy career at Boscombe and guys there still remembered the beat-up – apparently, a lot of car alarms are prone to jet noise.
Anyway, I was also lucky enough to get a pax ride in the Harrier T4 (twice) and the Tornado F3, thereby putting my trust in the other seat maintainers on the squadrons who had fitted those seats. I have attached three pictures of me enjoying the (thankfully sedate) ride in an MB ejection seat. One is of me in the Harrier at about 18 000 ft (as can be seen in reverse in the HUD) following the other Harrier in our pair, another (also in the Harrier) which is sadly a little blurred, but I love the reflection of the sister jet in my visor and the other was taken in the Typhoon at 0 ft on the pan at Coningsby just before the performance take-off (don’t let the smile fool you – I was petrified!).