9th MXS egress shop upgrades ejection seat
By Senior Airman Tristan D. Viglianco, 9th Reconnaissance Wing Public Affairs
/ Published June 12, 2019
BEALE AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. --
The U-2 Dragon Lady has a long and storied history, which means the component parts do as well. The ejection seat, arguably one of the most important components, is currently undergoing a large upgrade.
The 9th Maintenance Squadron worked closely with Air Force engineers at Robins Air Force Base, Georgia to develop new catapults after the manufacturer stopped making the parts.
“The engineers had to come up with new propellant inside the new catapults, which works the same way the old ones did,” said Charlie Toomer, 9th MXS aircraft ordnance systems mechanic lead. “When developing the catapults they had to do testing and make sure it works properly and safely. We did a lot of coordinating back and forth to see what the status was and now we are replacing them.”
The entire U-2 fleet is scheduled to have the new catapults installed in the near future, which will ensure the safe egress capabilities of the pilots.
“We have begun scheduling maintenance and changing the catapults,” said Tech. Sgt. Marcus Capers, 9th MXS aircrew egress systems craftsman. “Every part is integral, but I think the catapult is the most important part because it gets the pilot and the seat out of the aircraft.”
According to Toomer, the replacement process is scheduled for completion before the end of the year and he believes the importance of a properly maintained ejection seat cannot be understated.
“The ejection seat is a pilot’s last chance in case something were to happen,” said Toomer. “The catapult needs to take them and their seat out of the aircraft in less than a second.”
Capers is proud of the egress team’s efforts in upgrading the ejection seat and keeping the U-2 operational.
“The team did a good job throughout this whole process and I’m happy we have extended the life of the U-2,” said Capers. “Continuing the mission of Recce Town is important because the U-2 is the only system that can do what it does and meet mission demands.”