RAF could face charges over death of Red Arrows pilot who was killed in ejector seat accident

  • Lincolnshire Police pass file to CPS over death of Flt Lt Sean Cunningham
  • Iraq veteran died after ejector seat deployed and parachute did not open

By Anna Edwards


Police have passed a file to the Crown Prosecution Service after a Red Arrows aerial display team pilot died after he was ejected from his cockpit while on the ground.

Lincolnshire Police confirmed they have handed over the file concerning the death of Flight Lieutenant Sean Cunningham.

Iraq war veteran Flt Lt Cunningham, 35, was a highly-regarded and experienced pilot with the RAF's aerial display team but was fatally injured after being ejected from his Hawk T1 aircraft while on the ground at RAF Scampton, Lincolnshire, on November 8, 2011.


Charges could be brought against the MoD after Iraq veteran Sean Cunningham was killed when he was ejected from his Hawk T1

The parachute on the ejector seat did not deploy and the South African-born airman later died in hospital.


Following the incident, the RAF grounded all non-essential flying of aircraft fitted with the Mk10 Martin Baker-built ejector seat 'as a precaution', but flights later resumed in December 2011, with air chiefs saying they had 'no remaining safety concerns'.

A Lincolnshire Police spokesman said: 'A file has been submitted for consideration by the CPS and as soon as we're in a position to update on that, we will.

'We are not speculating on the matter of any possible offences.'


Paramedics were called to the team's world-famous aerobatics base in Lincolnshire after the ejector seat in the Hawk T1 aircraft was deployed


The Ministry of Defence (MoD) confirmed it was aware a police file was now with the CPS but would not comment further

It is understood the police are expecting a response from the CPS by the end of the month on whether any criminal charges should be brought in relation to the incident.

The Ministry of Defence (MoD) confirmed it was aware a police file was now with the CPS but would not comment further.

An MoD spokesman said: 'We are aware that a referral has been made to the CPS in relation to the civil police investigation into this incident.

'It is not appropriate for the MoD to comment on such matters, any questions should be directed to the civil police and/or CPS.

'Our thoughts remain with the family and friends of Flt Lt Sean Cunningham.'

An inquest was told that Flt Lt Cunningham had completed ground safety checks when the ejector seat of his Hawk jet was deployed.

The main parachute did not deploy and the pilot did not become separated from his seat during the incident, the hearing was told.

He landed on the ground still strapped into his seat.

An ambulance was called and Flt Lt Cunningham was taken to Lincoln County Hospital where he was confirmed dead in A&E.

A post-mortem examination was carried out and the cause of death was given as multiple injuries due to a fall from height following ejection from an aircraft.

The Red Arrows lost two pilots in 2011, after pilot Flight Lieutenant Jon Egging, 33, from Rutland, was killed when his Hawk aircraft came down after performing at an air show near Bournemouth airport in Dorset in August.

An inquest later heard the likely cause of the crash was that he lost consciousness due to the G-Force.



The comments below have been moderated in advance.

Surely the headline is wrong. Is it not the case that the RAF cannot face charges as they enjoy Crown Immunity? Perhaps individuals may face criminal or civil proceedings but the RAF are protected.

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What the Hell has this got to do with Lincolnshire Police? It happened to an RAF pilot, using RAF equipment, on MoD(RAF) property which is policed by the RAF Police (Snowdrops). The incident was investigated as per regulations and any operation, mechanical/design considerations made. The Mk10 is back in use and now considered safe. Lincolnshire police was not involved - hang on, they have one of the new police commissioners. Is he building his own empire?

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