Recently, an Indian CDS Bipin Rawat and his family as well as eleven members of the Indian Army died in an helicopter crash. You can find the story here. I did look at any questions asked on the topic and found this which I guess is about a Russian helicopter.

While it perhaps is far more complex and expensive, couldn't today's VTOL aircraft as well as civil aviation aircraft have ejection seats ??? I do understand that the tailwind of a civil aircraft is an issue, but besides that, why haven't ejection seats played much more of a role in civil aviation and just limited to military aircraft ????


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Plenty of answers to similar (but I would say not quite the same) questions deal with issues of cost - cost of ejection seats, lower payload capacity due to weight of ejection seats, cost of checking seats and parachutes on a regular basis, etc.

But there is another key issue: How useful would they be?

There is a big difference between military and civilian flying: war. Ejection seats are used in several different scenarios:

  • Damage due to war - missiles, guns, being chased "out of the sky". These things, hopefully, are extremely rare for civilian aircraft compared to military aircraft.
  • Test flights. Military aircraft are the ones that (generally speaking) push the limits on speed, altitude, etc. Plenty of pilots have ejected from military test flights.
  • Carrier landings. Scary when they work. Potentially fatal when they don't. A few feet off on land and you crash into grass before the runway or after the runway and have a chance to survive. A few feet off on a carrier and you are in the water and ejection is often the only realistic way to survive.
  • Air tanker refueling. Just one example of a dangerous activity routinely done by military aircraft and not by civilian aircraft where an accident can be deadly and ejection seats key to survival.

While most military flights are really just practice for war and not the real thing, the maneuvering involved and speed (except for the Concorde) are often quite different from civilian flights.

The end result is that the use case for ejection seats - the situations where it would be useful - is simply not the same for civilian aircraft.

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    $\begingroup$ Regarding #2 it is interesting to note that civilian test flights sometimes do have means for the crew to escape. For example, at least during early test flights of a new aircraft type, the test engineers and pilots wear parachutes, and the aircraft is modified to allow exiting it in mid-air. So, while not an ejection seat, there are escape systems used precisely in those situations you mention, even for civilian aircraft. $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 13, 2021 at 16:54
  • $\begingroup$ @JörgWMittag But even then, no ejection seats and I suspect the testing regimen is more "Will this fly?" than "What are the limits we can push it to?" $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 13, 2021 at 16:59
  • $\begingroup$ @JörgWMittag But even then, no ejection seats and I suspect the testing regimen is more "Will this fly?" than "What are the limits we can push it to?" $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 13, 2021 at 17:00
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    $\begingroup$ Somewhere in between, I would say. Normally, the limits would be part of the design criteria, but there definitely will be a "okay, but can we actually reach those limits, and what happens when we exceed them?" test as well. For example, wing bending is usually tested until the wing literally snaps in half, although in a test rig, of course, not in flight. $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 13, 2021 at 17:23

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