Roto-Chute for Rocket Pilots (Feb, 1949)

Roto-Chute for Rocket Pilots

SUICIDE is the word for the pilot who tries to escape from a supersonic plane by parachute. The billowing fabric ‘chute was -a wonderful aerial lifesaver —till Air Force pilots started streaking faster than sound in rocket planes like the Bell XS-1. The impact of the air at such speeds is so terrific that it will not only shred the parachute like a burst of shrapnel but also peel the flesh off the pilot’s bones. What can science do, then, to rescue the rocket pilot when his craft fails him? Look to the left, at MI artist Frank Tinsley’s solution: a pressurized escape capsule with unfolding rotary-wing air brakes to let the flier down to a safe landing on the ground or at sea. The capsule was the pilot’s cockpit before he fired a cartridge to blow the unit off to the rear. The idea is based on General Electric’s new “roto-chute” to bail out research instruments from V-2 rockets. Soon, the roto-chute will be bailing out rocket pilots.

  1. Stannous says: January 29, 200710:49 pm

    Not quite true but before the invention of the ejection seat it was an unknown quantity. I found this about the fastest known speed at ejection:
    What is the fastest ejection on record?

    Although this seems to be an easy question, looks can be deceiving. ‘How fast’ is an imprecise question as it can be answered in several ways, for example: speed over ground, Knots Indicated Air Speed (KIAS), Knots Equivalent Air Speed (KEAS) and so forth. For example, some SR-71 pilots are rumored to have ejected at speeds of Mach 3 at 80,000 feet. This is a ground speed of around 2000 miles per hour, yet due to the thinner atmosphere at that altitude, the speed is closer to 400 KEAS. That is more like a 460 miles per hour. An F-15E pilot survived an ejection at a very small ground speed as he was traveling almost straight down in a spin, yet he was traveling at 780 MPH. This is over 1.6 times faster in equivalent air speed. Another difficulty with answering this question is determining the exact speed. Since most ejections occur in situations that are changing rapidly, it is difficult to get an exact speed of the ejection. Most ejection speeds are calculated values based on the recollections of the crewman, and what little evidence survives the aircraft’s destruction. This can lead to very imprecise numbers. In the first known case of a man surviving a supersonic ejection, George Smith ejected from an F-100 Super Sabre in a dive. It was known that he ejected supersonically due to eyewitnesses who heard and saw the ejection from nearby based on the sounds of the sonic booms and the visual clues of the crash.

  2. Stannous says: January 29, 200710:57 pm

    And about the designer, Igor B Benson:

    Igor Bensen, born in 1917, was the son of a Russian agricultural scientist, Basil Mitrophan and Alexandra P. Bensen. His father was posted to Czechoslovakia in 1917 at the beginning of the Russian Revolution while the rest of the family remained behind. The Russian civil war lead to harsh times, and the Bensen family was soon reunited in Prague, far from the turmoil. At 17 Bensen was sent to the University of Louvain in Belgium, from which he received a B.S. degree.

    Bensen accepted a scholarship from the Stevens Institute in New Jersey in 1937 to study mechanical engineering, graduating with honors in 1940. As an alien Bensen had been forced to turn down a job offer to work for Igor Sikorsky, and his first job was as an engineer with General Electric at the age of 23.

    Much more fascinating detail about his development of the autogyro, helicopter, and roto-chute here:…

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