Stu Stangroom

An ex-RAF Weapons Technician, I spent 4 years working in the Ejection Seat Bay at RAF Stafford in the late 1990’s. At the time, Stafford was an RAF Maintenance Unit and the work that we carried out was unique in that it was not only far more technically challenging than other maintainers were carrying out on the operational units/squadrons, but we also worked on a wide variety of different seat types at the same time.

To illustrate this, in my time at Stafford, we conducted 3rd/4th Line repair, maintenance, modification and upgrade work on aircraft seats for the Hawk (Mk 10’s), Tornado GR4 and F3 (Mk 10A’s), Harrier (Mk 12’s) and Tucano (Mk 8’s). We also worked very closely with the Red Arrows, providing them with 2nd Line Maintenance following the closure of the seat bay at Scampton. In addition to the seats themselves, we also carried out 3rd/4th line maintenance and testing of various primary components including BTRU’s, Drogue Guns, Main Guns, HPRU’s, QRB’s and more. Such a broad range of equipment demanded a high level of competence, and I’m proud to be able to say that I worked as part of a great team in my time at Stafford.

One of the highlights of my time there, was being asked to ‘get creative’ with a couple of crash recovery Mk 12 Harrier seats, and see if I could combine the salvageable/repairable parts to make one ‘visually effective’ representation of a serviceable Mk 12. The aim was to fit the replica seat to the first full-size scale Eurofighter Typhoon, that was being built by a firm on Oldham to be used for photo opportunities by the RAF Roadshow team on the Airshow circuit. With amazing support from various RAF colleagues and civilian personnel, we were able to put together an impressive replica Mk 12 and I was rewarded with responsibility for delivering the final product to the model builder, and seeing the end product before the aircraft was issued to the RAF.

As a model maker myself, I was often asked during my RAF career, to make leaving ‘gizzits’. I made many different gizzets over the years for various people, in various places, and always personalised. But the one that I’m most proud of is the gizzet I made for myself when I was leaving Stafford. Perhaps inevitably, I decided to make a 1:10 scale seat. I started making it 6 months before I actually received my posting, and intended only to make a seat pan. Having completed that though, I decided to go the whole hog and ended up with an almost fully assembled Mk10 Red Arrows rear seat, mounted on a seat maintenance stand. Minus only the Head Box, Safety Equipment and Harness. To finish it off nicely, I mounted the whole thing on top of a pair of timber main gun vice blocks. What makes my creation unique though, is that it’s made almost entirely from scrap Martin Baker components.

I don’t have any work photographs from those days – it was before the mobile phone era! – but I’ve attached images here of the model. It still has pride of place in my home and is a welcome daily reminder of my time “on the tools”!

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