Skyhook: world’s strangest commute!

Skyhook patch, for the happy hookersYep, but I can totally see this catching on among a certain, perhaps inebriated, subculture. It would make closing time at the pub that much safer; hand over your keys, strap into the harness, and prepare for liftoff!

This is another gem from that damn interesting site Damn Interesting. It seems that, when flight was young and flyers were still imaginative about it instead of behaving like a bunch of sadsack bus drivers on the last run of the day, the Yanks came up with something so original that for real connoiseurs of aviation it is nothing less than sublimely salivatastic, inducing instant and total flooding of all pleasure zones in the cerebral or otherwise cortices.

Ladies and gentlemen, may we present: The Skyhook!

We caught a big one!

The idea of fly-by retrievals was first explored during World War II. American and British soldiers would equip with a full harness, and connect it to a cable which was strung to the top of a tall pole. The soldier would then stand between two such poles, and a specially fitted aircraft (usually a C-47 Skytrain) swooped in low, and hooked the cable, lifting the soldier from the ground. Though the system worked, it was generally cumbersome and difficult to set up.

That would be what we at the ol’ raincoaster blog call a big well duh! In time and with good solid Cold War dollars behind him, a CIA inventor called Robert Edison Fulton, Jr developed an elegant little rig of harness, helium balloon, and a whopping 500 feet of super-strong nylon cable. I suppose you can figure out how it worked; at least, if you’ve seen any Road Runner cartoons where the coyote gets really creative with latex gloves you can. Tie balloon to line, tie line to harness, put self in harness, let balloon go, wait.

A bunch of happy hookersAnd hope the navigator hasn’t fucked up. No matter how miserable it may be waiting for the #10 at Main and Hastings, I would have to suspect that standing on an ice floe near the North Pole, tethered to a small dirigible and waiting for an airplane to manifest during the small window of daylight hours has got to beat it for sheer tedium and existential dread.

And you just know the poor guy had to pee, too.

The airplane had to be fitted with a pair of tubular horns on the nose. In practice, the plane aimed right at a marker on the line, and the horns would catch the line. A mechanism would snap closed when the line was caught, releasing the balloon and anchoring the line to the aircraft. As the target was lifted from the ground, the line streamed back into the aircraft’s wake. The crew in the back of the plane would use a long hook to catch the line, and the target would then be winched into the bay.

The first live test was conducted with a pig as the target. Due to some stability issues, the pig spun in the 125 mph wind, and arrived on the plane dizzy and discombobulated. It recovered, however, and promptly attacked the crew.

Oh, well that’s encouraging. No word on whether the human subjects reacted in the same way, although I would, myself.

Here, for further study, is the journal of Captain Pete Purvis, who flew Skyhook missions, along with many of his impressive aeropix, all from Flight Journal magazine.

October 1962: I’m a brand-new graduate of the Navy Test Pilot School at Pax River—the Naval Air Test Center at Patuxent River, Maryland—40 miles down the Chesapeake Bay from the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis from which I graduated in 1957.I hardly can believe I’m here; I’ll fly the newest Navy aircraft and perform amazing aerial feats. I’ll push the envelope in the true “right stuff” tradition of those before me: Clark Gable, Errol Flynn—and the real ones such as Scott Crossfield and Chuck Yeager.

Please God do NOT let Air Canada get wind of this contraption; they already think they put themselves out entirely too much for the passengers. Once they realize they can save thirty thousand a day in landing fees by picking passengers up with Skyhook, there’ll be no stopping them.

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8 thoughts on “Skyhook: world’s strangest commute!

  1. Ah, but you left out the most famous instance of th eSkyhook system. in “The Green Berets,” John Wayne and Jim Hutton kidnap that dastardly North Vietnamese commander George Takei, truss him up in a Skyhook harness and have a C-130 snatch him for rendition.

    No wonder George was seriously on the wild side, and all the colored girls singin’ do da do, do do do da da do, da do, do do do da do . . . . .

  2. I thought George Takei turned out okay. Helmsman on the Enterprise had to be a competitive gig. But did he attack the crew when he got aboard, like the pig did? That’s what I want to know.

  3. As far as commercial transportation is concerned–I WANT it!

    Damn! Imagine: instead of the nine-hour-needle-parade of officious badged shirtstuffers and the berloody-inane-questions-by-the-yard (did you pack that case yourself or did you let an unknown stranger called Youssef Ali pack it for you?), coupled with parking charges that oughta include a small packet of lube and a condom, and all the other stupidities and grinding miseries that are the modern airport …

    Imagine, instead of cattle-class seating and a “safety demonstration” that could be safely skipped (Ask me why.), instead of getting a “meal” of starch and glucose, and instead of sitting locked in a tin tube …

    Good god! Skyhooking would be pleasurable by comparison. Doubly so, for it would include parachutes instead of “inflatable life vests”.

    Modern passenger air transport is an abomination, and a damn lie. I feel like attacking the crew every time I get that stupid damn lousy stinkin’ “safety briefing”.

  4. According to my Airforce Brat spousal person, it seemed like a good idea before there were helicopters but too often the plane would miscalculate and crash!

    @metro – just so long as we are not on the same flight – at the first sight of a life vest, mob hysteria could break out and nothing would save the cabin crew!

  5. Metro, it’s obvious you haven’t flown recently. Now you’re expected to pay for your Subway sandwich aboard the flight. Makes it much easier to eat healthy when everbody is picnicing.

    I love the Filipino airlines and their notices. “Please leave the life vest behind when you leave the plane”.

  6. Pingback: Neatorama » Blog Archive » Skyhook.

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