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British Industrial History

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Martin-Baker Aircraft Co

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1950. Ref AA below
January 1951.
Sept 1953.
September 1956
March 1957.
December 1957.
November 1958.

Martin-Baker Aircraft Co, manufacturer of aircraft ejector seats, of Higher Denham, Buckinghamshire, UK.

1929 Company founded.

1934 Private company.

1934 The company started as an aircraft maker, the Martin Baker Aircraft Company, which was founded in 1934 by Captain (later Sir) James Martin (September 11, 1893 – January 5, 1981) and Captain Valentine Baker MC AFC (August 24, 1888 – September 12, 1942). Baker was a flying instructor and took the role of company test pilot.

1937 Aircraft constructors. [1]

WWII Martin-Baker produced several prototype military aircraft during World War II, although none ever entered production. These designs included:

  • Martin-Baker M.B.1
  • Martin-Baker M.B.2
  • Martin-Baker M.B.3 (1942) - 6 cannon armed fighter design: prototype crashed killing Val Baker
  • Martin-Baker M.B.5 (1944) - Griffon engined with contra rotating propeller fighter design
  • Martin-Baker M.B.6, (WW2 jet fighter project with swing-arm, 0/0 spring-loaded ejection seat)
  • Martin-Baker M.B.7, Black Bess (postwar interceptor/high-speed test aircraft concept). Small flight models made but concept cancelled in 1947.

Throughout the war the company manufactured aircraft components including armoured aircraft seats for the Supermarine: Spitfire.

WWII Manufactured parts for the De Havilland Mosquito [2]

1944 the company was approached by the Ministry of Aircraft Production to investigate how the pilot of a a high speed fighter aircraft could be assisted in bailing out.

1961 Manufacturers of ejector seats for high speed aircraft, also engaged in experimental work on high speed aircraft constructed by new methods. [3]

1968 Queen's Award to Industry for Export Achievement and for Technological Innovation. [4]

Ejector seats

Martin-Baker started to investigate ejector seats from 1934 onward, several years before Germany (1938) and Sweden. The company concluded that an explosive-powered ejector seat was the best solution. Studies found the limits of upward acceleration which the human body could stand and included experiments on a volunteer, Bernard Lynch, who was a fitter at the factory. Their first seat was successfully live tested by Bert (sic) Lynch on 24 July 1946, who ejected from a Gloster Meteor travelling at 320 mph (510 km/h) IAS at 8,000 feet (2,500 m) over Chalgrove Airfield in Oxfordshire.

The first use of an ejector seat in a real situation by a British pilot involved the Armstrong Whitworth A.W.52 flying wing experimental aircraft in May 1949.

Martin-Baker was a leading pioneer in expanding the operational envelope of the ejection seat so it could be used a low altitudes and air-speeds leading eventually to a "zero-zero" capability.

Martin-Baker has supplied approximately 69,000 ejection seats of which 19,000 are currently in service. Around 7,000 – 10% of the total delivered – have been used by aircrew to abandon aircraft. It also manufactures fixed shock-absorbing helicopter seats designed to help the occupants survive crashes.

See Also


Sources of Information

  1. 1937 The Aeroplane Directory of the Aviation and Allied Industries
  2. Mosquito by C. Martin Sharp and Michael J. F. Bowyer. Published by Crecy Books in 1995. ISBN 0-947554-41-6
  3. 1961 Dun and Bradstreet KBE
  4. The Engineer of 26th April 1968 p650
  • [1] Wikipedia
  • AA. [2] Image courtesy of Aviation Ancestry