Investigations by the Indian Air Force (IAF) into the cause of the mysterious ejection of the Su-30MKI aircraft pilot seat has not found anything wrong with the system which controls the ejection, Air Chief Marshal Arup Raha has said.
“We have not been able to find any fault with the system as of now,” said the IAF Chief. When asked during a press conference at Aero India 2015 on February 19 if there was deliberate ejection, the chief replied, “we have ruled that out”.
The entire Su-30MKI fleet had been grounded last November after both pilot seats had ejected during a landing approach. The fleet had been cleared to fly after checks a fortnight later. When asked about the grounding and subsequent clearance, the IAF chief said, “since we did not find anything wrong in the system per se, mechanical part, servicing part as well as electrical part of the ejection system, we have recommended the flight (to resume fleet flying). A court of inquiry is yet to find an exact reason.”
However, the chief added, “we have historical evidence of the seat having malfunctioned in the past. So that is a good ground to say that there has been something wrong.” Nevertheless he ruled out “human error” as a probable cause of the sudden ejection.
Earlier that day, a top official of IRKUT Corporation of Russia, which manufactures the Su-30MKI concurred with the air chief that there was no fault in the ejection system. Vitaly Borodich, who heads Irkut’s military aircraft division said all data related to the sudden ejection and the crash had been looked at and there was nothing to indicate a fault anywhere. “That is why the aircraft is flying now”, he said referring to the IAF allowing the Su-30MKI fleet to resume flight operations after grounding it for over a fortnight.
Borodich attributed the uninitiated ejection to “human factors”, without specifying what these factors were.
The Sukhoi's Russian Zvezda K-36DM has to to be armed by lifting a lever. This is done before take-off. By arming the seats, the rocket which sets off the ejection is armed and ready to be fired . The rocket ignites if the pilot pulls the ejection handles located between his legs and the ejection seat blasts out. The seat then separates automatically from the pilot and a parachute is deployed.