INSIDE AIR RACING
The Pilot Escape System or PES
Star Aerospace, LLC. is designing a new technology Unlimited racer. The project sponsor has required an ejection system be installed. The system must provide a means to save the pilot from the majority of foreseeable accidents at a reasonable cost and weight. The system also has to be small enough for two to fit in a 3,500 lb. racer. Based on these requirements, we have decided on a custom application of the SKS-94. Originally produced by Zvesda in Russia, the system is now imported to a US manufacturer and fitted with American pyrotechnics. FAA certification of the charges and the chute pack is close to ten years, allowing virtually zero maintenance.
Designed for light aerobatic aircraft, the PES is not really a cut down ejection seat. It is more of an assembly of only the technologies needed for low to mid altitude subsonic ejection, with each part sized to create an effective and light weight package. Although the PES is a different type of system than a full ejection seat, it may be useful for comparison to look at what parts of a full military fighter seat we are leaving behind:
Pictured below is a "live fire" test of the SKS-94 from a modified Su-31. The extension boom and the clearance it provides from the tail section are clearly illustrated. The ejecting pilot is being pulled up and back on his parachute with an actual gain in altitude. Excess gas pressure from the extending boom can be seem venting above the rear pilots head. It is remarkable that the technology allows the aircraft to keep flying; the seat and pilot were prevented from striking the airframe during and after ejection. Although this test was performed under straight and level conditions, it illustrates some of the potential for air racing, aerobatic, and agricultural aircraft.
For initial tests, the canopies were removed. The test pictured used a real test pilot, illustrating the confidence that Zvesda personnel have in their systems! At less than 24" wide, the seat system is quite compact and can be fitted to even the tight confines of an aerobatic aircraft. At less than 50 lb., the weight impact is within the practical envelope for small air racers, as well as aerobatic and agricultural aircraft. For an Unlimited, its a non issue. For through the canopy ejection, canopy breakers are added to the top of the seat.
Accident dramatizations have been included to help the reader understand what a pilot goes through during a potentially fatal emergency. Most of the accidents listed in these articles resulted in major or fatal injuries to the pilot. It is the opinion of the author that some, perhaps most of these injuries could have been prevented with the pilot extraction system technology described.
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