Del Hall, Managing Director says a personal thankyou to his customers for 20 years in business. Here he takes the opportunity to reflect on his biggest achievements and most memorable moments of his personal survival & ejection seat servicing business and how it has changed over the years.
It all started with a specialised parachute packing service
20 years ago, this month, SES was founded with the goal of supplying a regulated and specialist survival equipment service to support the growth of private aircraft ownership in the market. The pilots required a reputable service for parachute packing and servicing of their personal support packs (a service which was being phased out in the RAF). With a long career in the Royal Airforce as a Survival Equipment Supervisor under his belt, Del had all the necessary skills to do just this. Premises were sort by way of an aircraft hangar, machine and tools purchased and parachute tables made, and a new business was formed.
Delta Jets became SES’s first contract
In June 1998 with business partner in tow, Del won his first contract in Delta Jets to provide a total survival equipment service of Hunter Parachutes and PSP’s . From there on more contracts came in from a number of customers in the UK. And with SES’s growing reputation, customers outside of the UK started using their services. It was during period of growth for the business that Del started to recruit specialist personnel. Then later, an acquisition of Seat Star, saw the extension of SES’s capabilities even further from parachute packing and liferaft servicing to be the approved servicing arm of Martin Baker’s aircrew ejection seats and survival systems.
SES supports the whole spectrum of civil & military aircraft
The success of the business he reflects has been all about adapting to the market at that given time. “At one stage all of our business was associated to the widespread use of fixed wing aircraft involved with historical displays and aerobatic application of aircraft. We supported the whole spectrum of civil and military aviation and post-World War 11 historic aircraft including jets such as Hawker Hunter, Jet Provost and the more modern aircraft like the Tucano. Today, it’s a mixture of applications including the servicing of tactical aircraft training corporations for the military from all over the world”.
Overcoming significant challenges
It has not been without challenges along the way, as he is reminded of the horrors of 911. It was during this time that all ex-military aircraft were grounded, and business came to a sudden halt with very little hope of the market picking up. However, things did improve and SES fought back and gained business in other sectors of personal safety. The only other major impact that has hit the industry hard was the unfortunate incident at Shoreham. This was not only a sad day for all those who lost their lives but was a turning point in the maintenance and flying of ex-military aircraft in the UK and possibly the world.
To the highs
The highest point undoubtedly for Del was the opportunity to being chosen to work with Breitling during their 20-day round the world balloon challenge. This incredible world record likened to a space mission than a balloon trip involved 2 pilots battling the jet stream at 10,000 above sea level. This was successfully accomplished on March 21, 1999, when Bertrand Piccard and Bryan Jones guided Breitling Orbiter 3, the first balloon to fly around the world non-stop, to a safe landing on a desolate stretch of desert in Western Egypt.
“We also experienced a day’s filming of Wallace and Gromit Goes Scientific. We were chosen based on our knowledge and expertise in escape systems, Del recalls”.
“Over the years we’ve also attracted other films, shows and advertising sets based on our specialist engineering and parachute and escape systems knowledge. I’ve loved this opportunity as it has taken us away from the normality of our daily business to add a little excitement and the opportunity to meet some very interesting people and some famous personalities along the way”, Del continues.
Growth on all levels
From their early premises at Kemble airfield to their custom designed facility in Tetbury today, SES has come a long way. The premises incorporate a significant service function for all personal survival equipment, to manufacturing liferafts and developing one of the smallest, collapsible stretchers on the market, to training aspects of personal survival for pilots and training on seat servicing.
“As I look back, as a business we would like to thank our customers, suppliers, and my network of friends from the RAF. As SES looks forward to growth in partnerships and distribution networks, we are excited about this next phase for the company”, says Del Hall.
Wise words from a renowned expert in the personal & survival industry
As a business that surrounds personal safety, his parting words are around the notion of not taking a risk in your personal safety. “Sadly, too often, personal safety items are not inspected or serviced regularly or not adhered to all. Once, I witnessed shredded curtains that had been put into a parachute pack that was fitted to a live ejection seat in the belief that they had been regularly maintained and were serviceable. Imagine what the consequences would have been if the escape system had to be used?”, Del said.
“Today the market is a much different place. We’re highly regulated and there is a lot more restrictions on this industry than say 20 years ago. Ex-military aircraft once only seen at airshows are now being acquired by commercial companies all over the world and being used by government departments as providers for various activities and this is increasing yearly.
I hope that today we are more aware of what is required when it comes to safety in relation to ex-military aircraft and that the original OEM’s recognise the potential and help us support this industry”, he continued.
By Del Hall, Managing Director Survival Equipment Services (SES).