Mk 3B Restoration

 The de Haviland Vampire T55 owned by Pierre Wildman is located in Chino, USA and Seatstar Ltd was asked to supply 2 x Mk 3B seats for the aircraft.

Pierre takes up the story:


It's an ex-Swiss T55 imported to the US in 1991.  It has been operational for most of the intervening years.  At some point the original ejection seats were removed and replaced with earlier style seat pans and parachutes.  Presumably the reasoning was to make the aircraft more comfortable to fly, especially for larger-framed pilots. 
After considerable deliberation I decided to re-install a completely overhauled, functional ejection seat system.  It wasn't long before I was sharing a pint with Mick discussing what it would take for SeatStar to acquire, overhaul, and assemble 2 seats for the airplane.  Everything about the seats that was removable had been removed, so everything down to pip pins and mounting brackets had to be found or fabricated.  SES came through with all the "soft" stuff and Martin Baker manufactured fresh charges so everything will be "in life".  And we'll be able to go fly a classic jet fighter knowing that if things start going "way bad" we have the option to "get out and walk".
As Pierre reports, " However, I do expect to get some crap from a few Vampire types in the US who rather strongly advised me against bang seats due to mostly ergonomic concerns".

First flown in 1947 and upgraded for many years after this until its retirement in 1977 in Switzerland, the Vampire is becoming a rarity on the flying scene. Spares are available for the airframe in relatively large numbers, especially since the Swiss Air force has sold most of its stock. But the availability of seat spares is rapidly diminishing.

The Webmaster was contacted to try and source parts for a complete re build and return to flight status of 2 x Mk 3B seats and over the following months many of the elusive spares and whole seats turned up.

The seats themselves proved to be in quite good condition, very little corrosion appeared on them and these were stripped at Seatstar Ltd based in Duxford, cleaned, lifed items renewed, repainted and rebuilt to new standard. Drougue guns, harness releases, leg line boxes and BTRU's were stripped, inspected, rebuilt and tested prior to refitting. The lifed items such as all packs, straps and other "software" were either replaced with new or made to new specification by SES Ltd at Kemble.

Without wishing to embarrass anyone, here is a huge "thank you" to one and all who helped in locating the spares and if you want your name or organisation added to the text mail me and I will happily add the details.

This Mk 3B is indicative of the kind of state the seats were in on arrival for rebuilding. There were in suprisingly good condition for their age.

A port side view of the same seat. Note seat rail in background.

Same seat from the other side.

The rebuilt seat, ready to go.

Close up of headbox and new parachute packs.

LHS of headbox.

Note seat rail in background

Rear of headbox. Note new software.

Here is Pierre's Vampire withe seats fitted on the day of the first flight.

One very proud owner

We will be showing pictures here soon of the restoration and rebuild. Call back soon!