The Air Police Patrol (Feb, 1936) (Feb, 1936)

This would make for some pretty awesome car chases.

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The Air Police Patrol


THE automobile, as a quick get-away instrument in crime, has assumed vast proportions during the past decade. Notorious gangsters and their henchmen are always using high-powered automobiles and, unfortunately, they are often able to outwit local police and state troopers after the crime has been engineered. Very frequently, the license number and a good description of the car is obtained by the police but, as a rule, so much time is lost in distributing such information from Police Headquarters that the criminals can make a clean getaway. Usually, the crime car is abandoned a little later, after the gangsters have changed to another.

It is true that short-wave radio, in connection with police cars, has been able to decrease crime somewhat; but this is true mostly in large cities. Once the fleeing gangsters take to the rural highways, it is usually impossible for the police to overtake them.

A means is here proposed to enable the police to move quickly about, and apprehend, criminals, via airplane. A number of municipalities now have airplanes, and most of them are being equipped with police radio. But it is one thing to notify an airplane that a car is heading in a certain direction on the highway, and another to stop the car by airplane. The reason for this is that the modern airplane cannot come too close to the ground and, even if it did, it could do so for only a very brief space of time, measured in seconds. Suppose we have instead a police plane equipped with a separate gondola, which is streamlined, and which can be lowered from the plane by a steel cable. By means of the plane’s engines, the gondola can be lowered or raised quite rapidly, while the plane can fly from 300 to 400 feet above the ground. The gondola, which swings free, except as it is supported by the steel cable, can assume a partially independent motion of its own, because it has a rudder and elevators to steer it, like a glider. It can, therefore, independent of the airplane, veer to the right or the left, and even turn about in the opposite direction, should this be necessary. The mobility of the gondola is, therefore, greater than that of the plane.

Suppose now, that Police Headquarters gets the report that a certain green sedan, with a certain license number, is escaping on a certain highway. The Air-Police Patrol, ready at all times, takes off in a few seconds and will be over the highway far quicker than any automobile could cover the distance. By means of binoculars, the fleeing car is spotted quickly. The gondola is lowered, as soon as the airplane is close behind the automobile and, in a matter of seconds, it is within fifty feet of the ground. The police, if they are sure of their prey take no chances, but immediately fire at the tires and bring the car to a standstill. If the bandits know what is good for them, they will not venture outside of the car because, by the time this system is in vogue, they will understand that they cannot resist or attempt escape without being riddled.

In the meanwhile, the airplane wings overhead in circles, while the gondola does likewise, except that it cuts smaller circles, if required. Of course, in the meanwhile, as soon as the airplane spotted the car, word was flashed by radio to the nearest police station ahead that the fugitives had been overhauled; and thus, without much loss of time, police cars will be roaring to the spot, surrounding the bandit car and taking their prisoners.

The gondola is then again hoisted upwards, the plane departs, and this particular job is finished.

This gives the idea in the rough and, while it may be necessary to do quite a bit of experimenting to perfect the system, there is reason to believe that it is sound and can be put into use immediately, if authorized. It would prove a powerful deterrent to present gangster methods.

  1. TomB says: November 23, 201011:11 am

    Hugo had some fantastic ideas.

  2. Myles says: November 23, 201012:25 pm

    Two words – power lines. Also, that is really stupid. 🙂

  3. Richard says: November 23, 201012:54 pm

    What purpose is served by the gondola, versus just having the whole plane fly down lower? Sure, it’s dangerous to fly so low, because you could clip a tall tree, hit a hill, or lose a bit of altitude and hit the ground. But the gondola is equally exposed to every one of these dangers, too, in addition to the danger of a powerline between it and the plane, as Myles pointed out.

  4. Andrew L. Ayers says: November 23, 20102:47 pm

    There probably wouldn’t have been too much of a powerline danger, at least back then; rural electrification took a long time…

  5. vse says: November 23, 20102:52 pm

    @TomB: Almost — Hugo had some “Amazing Stories”…

    Sorry couldn`t resist.

  6. DouglasUrantia says: November 23, 20103:00 pm

    Batman and Robin would be much more effective in these fantasy world crime stoppers.

  7. Daniel Rutter says: November 23, 20105:41 pm

    Yeah – even for Hugo, they couldn’t all be gems!

    This one’s really got that something-a-bored-schoolboy-doodled-on-a-folder quality about it, hasn’t it?

  8. Christoph says: November 23, 20107:01 pm

    “it may be necessary to do quite a bit of experimenting to perfect the system, but there is reason to believe that it is sound and can be put into use immediately”

    say what?

    its very imperfect but may be used rightaway?

  9. DouglasUrantia says: November 23, 20107:10 pm

    That’s what Toyota did when they installed electronic carburetors.

  10. Myles says: November 23, 20108:53 pm

    This system counts on city gangsters taking to rural highways so those “mounted machine guns” can take out the tires without too many civilian casualties. Best sentence I have read here – “If the bandits know what is good for them, they will not venture outside of the car because, by the time this system is in vogue, they will understand that they cannot resist or attempt escape without being riddled.”

    BTW, I want to see that gondola do the 180 they are talking about, should fly great backwards.

  11. Stephen Edwards says: November 25, 20106:08 am

    Two words: right turn

  12. jose says: November 25, 20106:11 pm

    If the plane above is close enough to lower the gondola, why not just shoot straight down at the engine of the car? A few 30-06 rounds would likely disable the vehicle pretty quickly.

  13. Firebrand38 says: November 25, 20106:37 pm

    jose: You would think that but it doesn’t work that way

  14. Anne says: November 28, 20103:18 am

    Myles: I love that sentence, too. Because that’s EXACTLY what happens in modern helicopter chases…


  15. Alan B. Barley says: December 7, 20103:33 pm

    I am intrigued by the partial articles which sometimes appear in the scanned pages. On the 2nd page there is a continuation of what is apparently a regular feature, a write-in column for suggested inventions. The explanation by the authors of ‘Science & Invention’ as to hydraulic brakes for cars would not work is cut off.

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