The first live flight test of the Martin-Baker system took place on 24 July 1946, when fitter Bernard Lynch ejected from a Gloster Meteor Mk III jet. Shortly afterward, on 17 August 1946, 1st Sgt. Larry Lambert was the first live U.S. ejectee.
Early seats used a solid propellant charge to eject the pilot and seat by igniting the charge inside a telescoping tube attached to the seat. As aircraft speeds increased still further, this method proved inadequate to get the pilot sufficiently clear of the airframe. Increasing the amount of propellant risked damaging the occupant's spine, so experiments with rocket propulsion began. In 1958, the F-102 was the first aircraft to be fitted with a rocket-propelled seat. Martin-Baker developed a similar design, using multiple rocket units feeding a single nozzle. The greater thrust from this configuration had the advantage of being able to eject the pilot to a safe height even if the aircraft was on or very near the ground.
In the early 1960s, deployment of rocket-powered ejection seats designed for use at supersonic speeds began in such planes as the F-106. Six pilots have ejected at speeds exceeding 700 knots. The highest altitude at which a Martin-Baker seat was deployed was 57,000 ft (Canberra bomber)Following an accident on 30 July 1966 in the attempted launch of a D-21 Drone, two Lockheed M-21 crew members ejected at Mach 3.25 at an altitude of 80,000 ft.
Pilots have even successfully ejected from underwater in a handful of instances, after being forced to ditch in water. Documented evidence exists that pilots have performed this incredible feat.
As of 20 June 2011 – when two Spanish Air Force pilots ejected over San Javier airport – the number of lives saved by Martin-Baker products was 7,402 from 93 air forces.
The Martin-Baker runs a club you would prefer not to join, called the 'Ejection Tie Club' and gives survivors a unique tie and lapel pin. Thankfully, here at Sierra Hotel Aeronautics, we offer you the chance to own a "PULL TO EJECT" keychain without having to endure the hardships of pulling the handle.