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James Martin (1893 - 1981):
Ejector seat designer and manufacturer


James Martin was born in Crossgar, County Down. He was an engineer by the time he was twenty years old, and shortly afterwards, designed a three-wheeled enclosed car. He went to London in 1924 and invented various types of machines. In 1929 he moved to Middlesex, to what is now known as the Martin Aircraft Works. The company built a plane, the MB1. James Val Baker joined the company as a partner and they began to design fighter planes for the Royal Air Force, the MB2 and the MB3. Captain Baker was killed trying to land the MB3, and this may have been a reason why Martin focussed his energy on methods of saving pilots' lives. The MB4 and the MB5 aircraft were developed. Many of Martin's inventions, such as gun mountings and barrage-balloon cable cutters were produced. Many pilots were unable to escape from their cockpits during the Battle of Britain because the canopies would not open when damaged, and Martin devised a way of blowing the canopy off the aircraft. The Ministry of Aircraft Production invited Martin, in 1944, to develop an invention which would improve the survival rate of pilots, and he invented the ejector seat. It was so successful that by 1947, MB ejector seats were being fitted in all British military jet aircraft. He was awarded two honorary doctorates and an OBE and he was knighted. He won the Wakefield Gold Medal of the Royal Aeronautical Society, the Laura Taber Barbour Air Safety Award, the Cumberbatch Air Safety Trophy (1959) and the Royal Aero Club Gold Medal in 1964.

Born: 11 September 1893
Died: 5 January 1981
Kate Newmann