When everything else has broken or failed, the one thing that absolutely has to work is the escape system.
That adage certainly held true for Steven Andrews and Peter Batten (pictured) when they pulled the ejection handle on a PC-9 and Mirage, respectively, as well as the other 7,512 lives that have been saved thanks to ejection seats made by UK-based Martin-Baker.
The UK company has supplied the ejection and crashworthy seats to the Australian Defence Force since the 1950s and the company will be featured ADF aircraft for many years to come as the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) receives a number of new aircraft types.
That includes the ejection seats fitted to the RAAF F-35A Lightning II fleet.
To that end, the company has established a local arm, Martin-Baker Australia, which is setting up facilities just outside Newcastle for maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) work on the F-35A to be based at RAAF Base Williamtown.
Martin-Baker Australia managing director Andrew Eden said his team would be able to offer “cradle-to-grave” service for the various platforms in Australia, with all the spares and servicing able to be done here more quickly and efficiently.
“Historically Air Force has always maintained our products themselves and they have had a large body of people to do that,” Eden said on Thursday at the company’s stand at the Australian International Airshow at Avalon, which features the F-35A ejection seats.
“What we’ve found is, over time that cadre of people that are experienced has shrunk and shrunk and we can actually do a much more efficient job by bringing this into one facility and supporting all the aircraft types through one facility.”
The Australian company is also keen to bring MRO work on seats for its other Australian Defence Force aircraft – PC-9, Hawk 127, F/A-18A/B classic Hornet, F/A-18F Super Hornet, EA-18G Growler, PC-21, P-8A Poseidon and HATS EC-135 – into a single facility.
The director of business development and marketing for UK-based Martin-Baker Andrew Martin said there was a lot of potential for future growth both locally and within the region.
“We are confident the business that we can generate here, and more importantly the value for our customers, will allow the business to grow and flourish over the next few years,” Martin said.
“Our aspirations don’t stop with just doing the work here in Australia,” Martin said.
“There are 2,500 seats in service in the Australasian region and when this company is delivering all the different support programs it will be in a position to compete for some of the other seat work that’s carried out in the region.”
“We hope that it won’t just be a domestic service, it will be an international service as well.”
Martin-Baker Australia’s initial operations are still in their infancy – the company currently had four staff working alongside managing director Eden.
However, that was expected to grow as it assumed responsibility for the other ADF platforms alongside the F-35A work.
“The capacity that we have right now to service seats could cover two of our platform types,” Eden said.
“We don’t have an MRO contract right now. We have the assignment on JSF but that is not actually turning any spanners or hardware.
“We really are just starting out but we come from a pedigree that is well proven.”