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The Skyhook

Article #242 • Written by Jason Bellows

▼ Scroll to Continue ▼

During the Cold War, the US and the Soviets had an ongoing game of tag taking place under the Arctic Ice Cap. Among the better-known technologies employed in this chase, both sides often built "research stations" on the arctic ice floes. Though there was a potential for real science to take place in such locales, the purpose of these ramshackle huts was just to house hydrophones that would track submarines ranging the Arctic Sea. A problem arose, however, in manning these stations: they were beyond the limited range of the period's helicopters, too far into the floe for icebreakers, and in areas that are inhospitable to landing airplanes.

The only practical solution was to deliver personnel from an airplane without stopping, which meant that anyone who pulled arctic-listening-post duty had to parachute onto the ice. When it came time to bring them back home, their extraction was very much like their dramatic parachute entrance, only in reverse.

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.

Experiments for an improved system began in 1950 under Robert Edison Fulton, Jr. He was an inventor for the CIA, and had taught himself to pilot a plane. He tried to devise a way to pick up a weight from the ground that would be easier to set up than the method employed in the war. He tested his various methods with his own plane. By 1958 Fulton had developed a reliable method for snaring such a weight, and developed a package containing all that a person would need to use it.

The Fulton surface-to-air recovery system, or more commonly called "Skyhook", could be dropped from a plane to any target, where a single person with proper training could outfit a body or cargo for pickup. The package consisted of: a harness for cargo or person; a 500-foot, high-strength, braided nylon line; a portable helium bottle; and a dirigible-shaped balloon.

The person would climb into the harness, and connect it to the balloon with the nylon wire. With the simple pull of a ripcord, the balloon would inflate from the helium bottle, and would thus rise. The line was marked with flags or lights to help the airplane find the target.

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.

Later in 1958, Staff Sergeant Levi W. Woods became the first human to experience the Skyhook system. After the initial snap of being pulled from the ground, he rose slowly into the air until he was behind the aircraft. During the ascent he extended his arms and legs, thereby thwarting the oscillations that had plagued the pig. Six minutes after the process began, Staff Sgt. Woods was safely aboard the P2V Neptune. Following this successful test, the Skyhook was assigned its first mission in 1961: Operation Coldfeet.

One of the Soviet Floe Stations-- NP 9-- had to be abandoned in May of 1961. The runway that was used to supply the station had cracked and was unusable. The US direly wanted to take a peek at the Soviet's toys, and in planning, it seemed the Skyhook would be the ideal means of deploying. Unfortunately, by the time the operatives were trained and the kinks in cold-weather deployment were worked out, NP 9 was out of range. As luck would have it, in March 1962 another Soviet Floe Station, this time NP 8, was abandoned when an ice ridge destroyed the runway. After weeks of searching, NP 8 was found. US spies were loaded onto an airplane and flown to the remote arctic region, where they parachuted onto the ice. After gathering their intelligence, pick up was a little tricky. The weather had degraded to nearly white-out conditions, and the surface winds were near 30 knots. The first pick-up went well, but on the second the balloon was launched, and immediately caught in the wind. The soldier was dragged across the ice. As he tried to regain his breath, the plane hooked the line. He swung wildly in the void, unable to see, and whipped by the cold wind. To the credit of the Skyhook's design, he managed to orient himself, and was pulled safely aboard.

Despite the adversarial weather, everyone came back safely, and what better accolade could there be? The Office of Naval Research approved the Skyhook for general use.

The Skyhook was rendered obsolete with the arrival of longer-range helicopters that could make a pick up in a secluded location faster and with less bustle. In 1996, the US military ceased maintaining Skyhook training and readiness. It's a shame, because damn, what a ride.

Article written by Jason Bellows, published on 17 December 2006. Jason is a contributing editor for DamnInteresting.com.

Article design and artwork by Alan Bellows. Edited by Alan Bellows. Article suggested by Darren.
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59 Comments
Prince
Posted 17 December 2006 at 10:24 pm

not all that DI, but good to know that pigs dont like to be discombobulated. Oh and

FIRST


jonnyquest
Posted 17 December 2006 at 10:26 pm

Have been an avid reader, but have never posted. First time ,and I'm first! Awright. Great article


jonnyquest
Posted 17 December 2006 at 10:27 pm

Must learn to type faster.


Drakvil
Posted 17 December 2006 at 10:30 pm

And they said pigs don't fly! Here's Jason with proof they do.

All I can say is, I wanna try it!


ballaerina
Posted 17 December 2006 at 10:59 pm

"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."

I laughed outloud imagining a harnessed pig wizzing through the air .


ballaerina
Posted 17 December 2006 at 11:00 pm

whizzing* (I think)


davethemann
Posted 17 December 2006 at 11:47 pm

"discombobulated" is certainly underused


vonmeth
Posted 18 December 2006 at 12:21 am

ballaerina said: ""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."


I laughed outloud imagining a harnessed pig wizzing through the air ."

Heh, well ... maybe I have a macabre sense of humour, but I laughed out loud imagining the pig attacking the crew upon an airplane and not at the pig swirling.


Puppeto
Posted 18 December 2006 at 12:32 am

One ticket for the most damn interesting ride I've read about in a while, please.

It can't be much worse than riding a innertube that is being yanked off a dock by a boat at 30 to 40 mph, I've done that plenty of times and get away unscathed as long as I hold on tight. :)


Mez
Posted 18 December 2006 at 03:34 am

Does anyone know of a video of this thing in action?


DanMan3778
Posted 18 December 2006 at 04:43 am

Mez said: "Does anyone know of a video of this thing in action?"

I've never seen a "real" video of it, but if you watch "The Unit" on CBS, a couple of weeks ago one of the main characters was extracted from enemy territory using this method. It looked pretty darn real to me.


misanthrope
Posted 18 December 2006 at 04:56 am

DI Jason, thanks. (I've heard of them before, but not much info and long-since forgotten. Some survival handbook or something similar, I think.)

Video here (dunno if it's mocked): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SWdf5qPWrUI

There's a better picture of the hook part here: http://www.airliners.net/open.file/0226337/L/

Puppeto: It wouldn't be as much of a sudden acceleration as you'd first think - the plane is travelling horizontally, and at first you are travelling vertically. Because the line is (more or less) straight, x amount of forward movement would mean a lot less vertical movement to begin with. You'd accelerate quickly, but it would be a much smoother acceleration than being suddenly yanked off a dock by a boat. :)

I've thought of using the same principle to launch a glider by rocket (models, of course!). The problem is that the glider would be ripped to shreds by a normal rocket acceleration, but I think maybe with a long enough line the transition might be smooth enough? A few problems to overcome, like trailing a line from a rocket without affecting stability and not setting fire to the line etc. Worth a shot anyway, it's always fun to have model rockets flying directly at you trailing a flaming blob of something that used to be a glider :)

PS: Enough of the 'first' crap already, people. Nobody cares.


jimmyhdx
Posted 18 December 2006 at 05:31 am

Check out he movie,"Green Berets" starring John Wayne. They us the skyhook to extract a captured enemy general out of Vietnam.


HarleyHetz
Posted 18 December 2006 at 06:49 am

vonmeth said: "Heh, well … maybe I have a macabre sense of humour, but I laughed out loud imagining the pig attacking the crew upon an airplane and not at the pig swirling."

I did too!!


1c3d0g
Posted 18 December 2006 at 07:21 am

HarleyHetz said: "I did too!!"

Same here! ROFLMAO! :-D


ksuwildcatfan
Posted 18 December 2006 at 07:22 am

That vid on youtube was awesome, looks like an amazing ride! By the way, I thought the image of the pig attacking the crew was funny, he's gotta be pissed at being harnessed, yanked into the air, discombobulated, heck I can't blame him!


Bollo
Posted 18 December 2006 at 07:37 am

Mez said: "Does anyone know of a video of this thing in action?"

See the end of Thunderball (James Bond!)


Radiatidon
Posted 18 December 2006 at 07:39 am

What a ride…

When they prep you for “the ride” the harness is maneuvered about. If a male, they have you “adjust” certain attributes unless you are looking for a career in Opera. You are told to “relax” and try to breathe normally (as if). When you hear the droning of the aircraft you start to shake. Just before the “jerk” someone yells your name and makes a very rude comment. Hey it helped.

You are yanked backward, not sure if it is the sudden jerk or the ground suddenly moving away, but you find yourself unable to breathe for a moment. Then your first thought, “Crap… how did everyone get so small.” Next you start to spin, worst than one of those carnival “Tilt-a-whirl”. Your universe is nothing but “Sky-sun-ground-sky-sun-ground…

Then you remember your training, you assume the flying angel. Arms straight out to the side, legs spread out. As your spin decreases you bring your legs in and control your assent with your arms and hands. You find that just slight movements of your hands will change your “flight”. Just as they told you in training, “Almost like flying. The closest you could come to being a bird.”

The roar of wind in your ears is replace by the growl of the aircrafts engines. As the flight crew grabs you and hoists you into the plane, the cargo master asks how you feel. You notice that he has a “barf bag” handy. Smiling you shake your head at the offered bag and tell him you feel fine. They won’t let go of you yet though. As they help you into the plane your legs feel completely boneless and you notice that you are shaking uncontrollably. Your mind is occupied by two thoughts. “Wait ‘til the guys hear that I didn’t blow my cookies,” and “Crap that was better than the Rebel’s Yell!”

Note: The Rebel’s Yell is a Roller Coaster in King’s Dominion.


jreiter
Posted 18 December 2006 at 07:59 am

They could sooooo Charge big bucks for this ride!!!


Flatfoot1954
Posted 18 December 2006 at 08:11 am

“Honey I’m home!”

“Welcome home dear. How was your day?”
“Awful! I was attacked by a pig!”
“Attacked by a pig??!! Where could YOU possibly be attacked by a pig?”
“In the cargo bay of a P2v Neptune.”
“What was a pig doing in the back of your airplane?”
“……Can’t tell you. It’s classified.”


Radiatidon
Posted 18 December 2006 at 08:25 am

As a side note, the inventor of the Skyhook retrieval system also invented a similar method for water retrieval. Rubber dinghies would have a rope between them, which the retrieval ship, would “snag” hauling them out of enemy territory toot-sweet. The divers or men in the dinghies would tie themselves in, as the ride was quite hectic.

He also invented a way to drop rice to friendlies in war zones without landing. Rice would be packed tightly into the first bag, which was inserted into a larger loose bag. When it hit ground the inner bag usually burst filling the outer loose bag that usually survived the trip intact.

He also invented the Airphibian skycar. An aircraft/automobile that one would fly into an airport then convert into a road worthy car. See more about it here http://www.nasm.si.edu/research/aero/aircraft/fulton.htm . I forgot about this one for the previous article about skycars. But the skyhook reminded me of the inventor Robert Fulton and his other ideas.


JM
Posted 18 December 2006 at 09:04 am


PS: Enough of the 'first' crap already, people. Nobody cares.

You're just jealous, I think...


levitysea
Posted 18 December 2006 at 10:07 am

I know this is a little off base but it never fails, every post written by Prince is pointless and annoying, completely. Please, what's with this whole first nonsense? And why are you knocking the article? Don't come to this site if you don't like what you find, sheesh.

Sorry, I hardly ever post because most folks here make such a great point already but this dude is a continual source of displeasure and I couldn't contain myself any longer.
DI article!


another viewpoint
Posted 18 December 2006 at 12:18 pm

...let's just hope that harness is in no way attached to governement issued, military personel underware... otherwise, just chalk this up to the ultimate military wedgy!

...and I agree...never heard of a "discombobulated" pig before. Is that anything like a dis-embodied pig or out-of-pig experience?

..."Seriously Sarge, Silverberg here won't go over Pork Chop Hill. Says killing pigs ain't kosher!" Thank you Firesign Theatre.


dcourtne
Posted 18 December 2006 at 12:40 pm

If anyone watches the TV show called THE UNIT, in an episode that aired a couple weeks ago the Skyhook was used to retrieve a soldier on a covert mission from Afghanistan (in case you haven't figured it out, THE UNIT is about a covert military unit). It damn interesting to have seen it on TV a couple weeks ago and then learn more about it here.


Secret Ninja
Posted 18 December 2006 at 01:32 pm

dcourtne said: " It damn interesting to have seen it on TV a couple weeks ago and then learn more about it here."

Yet again....

http://www.damninteresting.com/?p=417


James
Posted 18 December 2006 at 04:23 pm

What was meant by

"Unfortunately, by the time the operatives were trained and the kinks in cold-weather deployment were worked out, NP 9 was out of range."

I’m assuming that the Bases were located on Glacial Flows. They tend to move South (away from the North Pole in this case) toward the bases deploying the aircraft. Why would the Base move out range? Wouldn't that take years anyway? I must be missing something obvious. Was the base on the opposite side of the ice cap from us?


Prince
Posted 18 December 2006 at 06:06 pm

I have a bone to pick with Levitysea, so any one else can just ignore this.

a few responses to the points you raised

1) completly pointless and annoying? thats your opinion, and by all means your entitled to express it in a way that you see fit, but you must remember that I am also allowed to express my opinions in a way that I see fit.

2) the whole first nonsense? I wasn't the first to shout first, and chances are I wont be the last. I am merely doing what half the other posters on here would do if they had the first post.

3) Knocking the article? How? Was it me saying that I personally didn't find the article all that interesting, or was it when I quoted the term discombobulated from the article?

4) dont come if I dont like what I find? i)If I dont come to this site how will I know I dont like it? ii) Is it any of your business if I come to this site?

5) a continual source of displeasure? To you perhaps,and maybe even to a few other people. To those people and you, I say, toughen up, and if you dont like that sage piece of advice, here is another, just skip my comment, dont read it.

To sum it all up, see point 1


just_dave
Posted 18 December 2006 at 06:24 pm

misanthrope said: "DI Jason, thanks. (I've heard of them before, but not much info and long-since forgotten. Some survival handbook or something similar, I think.)

Video here (dunno if it's mocked): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SWdf5qPWrUI

There's a better picture of the hook part here: http://www.airliners.net/open.file/0226337/L/

Thanks for the link to that video clip; hadn't seen that episode. Looks like a great ride. That Herky Bird driver better be dead on for that cable, as getting it wrapped in a prop would be no fun for anybody involved.

Too bad the airlines don't offer this as a service, especially for those of us that don't live in major cities. I just returned from a trip to LA, for which I had to drive 3 hours to catch a plane that flew directly over the city I live in. After a stopover at the airline's hub terminal, I caught a connecting flight which flew right back over my home town. On the way back, a parachute would've saved me another 6 hours of flying, waiting, and driving. I'd pay a lot extra for the rush of a Skyhook pickup and a HALO jump! (but certainly don't want or need the rush of living in said bigger cities, thank you very much.)

PS: Enough of the 'first' crap already, people. Nobody cares."

Amen to that.


Silverhill
Posted 18 December 2006 at 08:08 pm

James said: "I’m assuming that the Bases were located on Glacial Flows. They tend to move South (away from the North Pole in this case) toward the bases deploying the aircraft. Why would the Base move out of range?"

The bases were on ice floes (free-floating slabs), not on glaciers. Since the floes were (at times) free to move on the ocean currents, they did; and sometimes they would drift out of helicopter range.


BitJazz
Posted 18 December 2006 at 09:41 pm

James said: "I’m assuming that the Bases were located on Glacial Flows. They tend to move South (away from the North Pole in this case) toward the bases deploying the aircraft. Why would the Base move out range? "

The Arctic region is almost all open ocean, and so the vast majority of ice in the Arctic is sea ice, not glacier ice. What glaciers there are in the Arctic move downhill toward the ocean, which in the Arctic region is mostly northward, not southward. However, the bases were on floes, not flows. The ice floes drift with wind currents and ocean currents, which ultimately bring them southward, but southward from the north pole is only toward bases on the same side of the pole, and away from bases on the opposite side.


BitJazz
Posted 18 December 2006 at 10:00 pm

One of the most vital features of the design is the guy wires stretched taut from the nose to the wingtips, which show up clearly in the photo. Without these stays, if the pilot missed and the horns failed to pluck the wavering dragline out of the air, one of the propellers would be likely to catch it instead, winching up the pig or human at an all too rapid speed to an even more discombobulating encounter with a growling engine.


ti83
Posted 19 December 2006 at 12:16 am

Holy crapness that's awesome. A body could charge some serious money for a skyhook ride. Heck, I'd do it--I just wouldn't go near the arctic circle.


Vivendi
Posted 19 December 2006 at 02:57 am

DI article Jason. I've also seen this done in a movie and/or documentary in an Arctic setting. The jerk from the pickup shouldn't be too bad, although the pilots probably have to slow down the plane considerably to reduce strain on the person being picked up.

Btw, did anyone else think of Pink Floyd while reading about the flying pig?

On a side note:

Prince said: "
1) completly pointless and annoying? thats your opinion, and by all means your entitled to express it in a way that you see fit, but you must remember that I am also allowed to express my opinions in a way that I see fit.
"

Yes, you are allowed to express your opinion in a way that you see fit. However, when criticizing, try to do it contructively whenever possible. The authors don't get paid for this free service, so a little thank you shouldn't hurt.
And also, I find that many times what makes the articles from interesting to damn interesting are the comments left by readers that really add a lot to the article. On the other hand, comments like yours, I find useless.


Radiatidon
Posted 19 December 2006 at 07:32 am

Vivendi said: "DI article Jason. I've also seen this done in a movie and/or documentary in an Arctic setting. The jerk from the pickup shouldn't be too bad, although the pilots probably have to slow down the plane considerably to reduce strain on the person being picked up.

"

The first jerk from the ground is no worse than an old Farris wheel on startup. The “ride up” feels like said same Farris wheel but with a gentle acceleration as you go. The worse jerk is when you hit the “sweet spot” where you flip-up behind the aircraft and start to spin. At this point you will also “bounce” momentarily like a side-ways yo-yo until you stabilize at the plane’s speed. This is like the harsh jerking one can experience on a ride called the “Wild Mouse”, only worse. Then as one approaches the aircraft, you experience the turbulence of the air from the plane’s passage. If you ever have done white water rafting, this falls into the same vein. You start to wonder if you can keep the proper positioning for retrieval from the air, and wither or not you will smack into the tail assembly before making the cargo doors.

As far as the pilot missing the cable and having it hit the prop. It would take some pretty hefty wind shears from a violent storm to have that happen due to the design on the cable guide. The system is very generous on the pickup window. If the weather is that violent, your tether balloon can drag you halfway to Timbuktu before the plane can even come close to snagging you. It is the pilot’s call on all pickups though.


James
Posted 19 December 2006 at 11:37 am

77N 163E (somewhere over eastern Russia) I would suppose accessible from Alaskan bases

86N 76W (Somewhere North of New) York I would have assumes accessible from Greenland bases or air strips.
They were not concerned with being out of Helicopter range. The Lockheed P2V had a range at that time of around 4000 miles. The ending location of NP9 was about 600 miles from Thule Air Base (76 N 68 W) (built in 1951) actually much closer than NP 9 ever came to any other US air base. So there is something that I am still missing. Maybe I’m missing the point of the article. Maybe US still does not want to admit this espionage for some reason or maybe this thing really was not working in 1961. I’m not sure but something seams off. Not your article Jason because this seams to be the official record.


Ironclaw
Posted 19 December 2006 at 11:50 am

Don't forget one important aspect of the nylon rope.. nylon rope stretches. The effect is even more pronounced when the rope is braided in a proper form. This setup is typically referred to as Dynamic Rope.
Dynamic rope can stretch upwards of 6% to help absorb the impact of the lift.
It won't stretch as far or as much as a bungee cord, but I suppose the feeling would be the same.
I am thinking it would be much like a bungee jump, just without the falling part. A nylon rope stretched by the plane.. and then up you go.

My reference:
http://www.spelean.com.au/BW/TM/BWtechdyn.html


James
Posted 19 December 2006 at 12:36 pm

James said: "77N 163E (somewhere over eastern Russia) I would suppose accessible from Alaskan bases


86N 76W (Somewhere North of New) York I would have assumes accessible from Greenland bases or air strips.
"

Oops that has no context
77N 163E are the aprox. Coordinates where NP9 started, 86N 76W is where it ended up


Cesium
Posted 19 December 2006 at 01:39 pm

In the video clip it shows just two clips to the man’s back. How could that work?


Radiatidon
Posted 19 December 2006 at 01:53 pm

Cesium said: "In the video clip it shows just two clips to the man’s back. How could that work?"

The harness actually is a type of body suit with small 4”or so sleeves for the arms and 6” or so leggings. It also included a fur-lined hood. The harness was “built-in” to the body suit to guarantee proper fitting of the straps. It could be worn over or under regular clothing though coveralls was generally suggested. The body suit as I recall was red or orange in appearance but only had one clip for the tether. Then again I am pulling this from the dim recesses of my mind. The Robert Fulton Company manufactured and separately packaged each item in the main kit. The company trademark was on each item in the package.

The clip on YouTube is from the TV show The Unit. As well done as it was, there were some minor errors. First when the soldier sits down to await the aircraft, the tether rests precariously around one leg. If a sudden wind gust caught the balloon that could wrap around his leg creating a dangerous problem when the plane comes less than two to three minutes later. Second there was a vehicle behind him; it was generally recommended that you allow a gracious takeoff strip just in case. Then after he is “snagged” by the aircraft, he remains in the initial pick-up position. That is with head bowed and arms crossed and never assumes the “flying angel” position. The final “mistake” shows that this was Hollywood magic and not the actual Futon skyhook in action.


Coherent
Posted 19 December 2006 at 04:36 pm

Maybe it was real and he was simply insufficiently trained :) I think it's likely that someone had a skyhook-equipped plane and was willing to make the pickup and the stunt guy was simply poorly trained on the liftoff procedure. But then, it looks like it worked nice and clean, so all's well that ends well.


portsmouth101
Posted 19 December 2006 at 06:26 pm

"the pig spun in the 125 mph wind, and arrived on the plane dizzy and discombobulated. It recovered, however, and promptly attacked the crew."

I like how they put in the pig attacked the crew, brings a funny, yet stupid detail in some serious stuff.

Haha, maybe they should've made some bacon on that plane =)


Misfit
Posted 19 December 2006 at 08:02 pm

Nice work, Señor Bellows!

I remember the Fulton Surface-to-Air recovery system in Metal Gear Solid 3! great games... was mentioned in it, but never was featured... unfortunate, because I've got some questions:

How vulnerable to wind was the system? The article mentioned a guy being dragged across some ice when the balloon caught the wind, not to mention the air-bomb-ey look of the balloon in the video Misanthrope supplied. How would they overcome any wind suddenly jerking the balloon out of the way before the plane arrives to pick it up?

How low does the balloon have to be (in a steady, and above all 'predictable' wind) before the pilots decide that they just shouldn't go for it? The horizontal plane-vertical human liftoff factor would most definitely be affected by any angle given to the balloon in any wind as well, (in my mind anyway). Is there a way to overcome it, or do the people on the ground just have to bite their lip and deal with it?

Was there really only one discombobulated pig before anybody decided thay they want a go at trying this new technique?

BitJazz said: "One of the most vital features of the design is the guy wires stretched taut from the nose to the wingtips, which show up clearly in the photo. Without these stays, if the pilot missed and the horns failed to pluck the wavering dragline out of the air, one of the propellers would be likely to catch it instead, winching up the pig or human at an all too rapid speed to an even more discombobulating encounter with a growling engine."

BitJazz makes a very good point, I noticed those, and wondered what they were for. But it does bring up another question:

What happens if the airplane pops the balloon? Is it just one of those things where the balloon is light enough to follow the 'airflow' around the 'aircraft' (hehe similar sounding words (from an easily amused person)) without ever touching the plane? Was there ever an instance where those catching prongs popped the balloon? Does the guy on the ground have a spare balloon? I'm just going to say 'balloon' one more time... Balloon.

How long does it take for an aircraft to swing around for another go at catching that thing? If it's a long time, would the balloon basically just be like a target for the enemy? What's the minimum time the guy has to set up his balloon before it's too late for the plane to catch it?

WOW I'm just a box of questions, here.

What kind of pig?

Balloon.

MMMMMMMMMMMMMMM
MMMMMM..........MMMMMM
MMMM.......................MMMM
MMM..............................MMM
MMM..............................MMM
MMM..............................MMM
MMMM........................MMMM
MMMMM.................MMMMM
MMMMMM...........MMMMMM
MMMMMMM [] MMMMMMM
MMMMMMM^^MMMMMMM


Misfit
Posted 19 December 2006 at 08:06 pm

Oh also, It's fun to see new things popping up in the features here! I just noticed the comments are numbered now! And the preview window is up-to-date with separated paragraphs!

Awesome work!


CanInternet
Posted 20 December 2006 at 01:42 am

They should have given the pig a medal.


Radiatidon
Posted 20 December 2006 at 10:23 am

Misfit said: "Nice work, Señor Bellows!


"the air-bomb-ey look of the balloon in the video Misanthrope supplied. How would they overcome any wind suddenly jerking the balloon out of the way before the plane arrives to pick it up?"

The bomb look is actually an aerodynamic design. This helps keep the balloon from “wandering” about the sky like a kite in the wind. As far as pickup, the pilot flies with the wind towards the nose of the balloon. This decreases the chance of the balloon suddenly veering away from the nose catch.

"How low does the balloon have to be (in a steady, and above all 'predictable' wind) before the pilots decide that they just shouldn't go for it?"

Depends on weather type. Extreme sudden, shifting pockets of air (those things that cause the roller coaster type ride one can experience on an aircraft during a storm) may cause the pilot to abort. If the pilot cannot keep the target beacon (located a good distance below the balloon to forestall any potential aircraft/balloon collisions.) somewhat lined-up, then it’s not worth the fuel to try. That is, unless the person(s) on the ground are in potential peril. Then once again it is at the pilot’s digression. As far as angle, the person would have to be anchored in extreme wind conditions for the line to get any major angle. This in turn would endanger the person so the system would not be used. To understand the drag this balloon can give, try watching/trying kite surfing. A good gust has been known to take the surfer hundreds of feet into the air. This sport has suffered some causalities due to this.

"Was there really only one discombobulated pig before anybody decided thay they want a go at trying this new technique?"

I believed they used three pigs (not sure if only one suffered the "twist"), various dummies, and weights up to 500 pounds. The rope tended to break under heaver weights. They did all that before using a human test subject.

"What happens if the airplane pops the balloon?"

Impossible if properly performed. The dragline is 500’ in length. Though I am not sure of the “catch point”, the aircraft can safely “catch” from 100’ to 400’.

"How long does it take for an aircraft to swing around for another go at catching that thing? If it's a long time, would the balloon basically just be like a target for the enemy? What's the minimum time the guy has to set up his balloon before it's too late for the plane to catch it?"

If the enemy is approaching, you have one try. If it’s a miss, cut the line and run. Depending on the size and speed of the craft, and upon weather conditions it can range from around 10 minutes on up. For a solo person, putting on the harness to deploying the balloon so that it is ready for the catch can be performed in less than 15 minutes with practice. First time around 45 minutes.

"What kind of pig?"

Not sure, but they had to shoot and kill it.


cinndave
Posted 20 December 2006 at 01:18 pm

Hey, I think I remember reading about the same thing as this in the book Rogue Warrior, by Richard Marcinko. Dick said it was a blast, and that you can kind of control your angle as they reel you in.


Misfit
Posted 20 December 2006 at 02:44 pm

Wow, radiatidon, that was far more info than I expected, thanks!


Radiatidon
Posted 20 December 2006 at 04:11 pm

Misfit said: "Wow, radiatidon, that was far more info than I expected, thanks!"

Your welcome, glad to be of service.


Tink
Posted 20 December 2006 at 10:04 pm

ballaerina said: "whizzing* (I think)"

LOL, Yeah I would imagine that the first few guys who tested this came close to whizzing themselves too. A side note on the funny, pigs have certain parts shaped like a corkscrew...Can't help but wonder what that pig thought was happening to himself as it was spun round and round. No wonder it was discombobulated and very pissed. Thank you Jason, for this DI artical and the best laugh I've had this week.


Tink
Posted 20 December 2006 at 10:10 pm

Tink said: "LOL... Thank you Jason, for this DI article and the best laugh I've had this week."

(Note to self:Spellcheck is your friend,spellcheck is your friend, spellcheck_is_your_friend,etc @%-)


thatonegirl
Posted 27 December 2006 at 10:30 pm

Flatfoot1954 said: "“Honey I’m home!”

“Welcome home dear. How was your day?”

“Awful! I was attacked by a pig!”

“Attacked by a pig??!! Where could YOU possibly be attacked by a pig?”

“In the cargo bay of a P2v Neptune.”

“What was a pig doing in the back of your airplane?”

“……Can’t tell you. It’s classified.”"

LOL.....DI article, as always


Aero
Posted 29 December 2006 at 05:00 pm

^^^^^^^^

Agreed. Pretty funny.
Does anyone know if their is a more realistic video out there?
I didn't see it at first, but nice air balloon.


Nonesuch
Posted 03 February 2007 at 11:49 am

davethemann said: ""discombobulated" is certainly underused"

whereas combobulating ,which presumably is a more desired state of affairs and most certainly preferred by pigs in air or on land, I've found not to be used at all.


Rachelita
Posted 14 May 2008 at 09:50 am

vonmeth said: "Heh, well … maybe I have a macabre sense of humour, but I laughed out loud imagining the pig attacking the crew upon an airplane and not at the pig swirling."

I have to admit, I too only laughed at this point... xD


ChrisW75
Posted 17 August 2008 at 07:17 pm

This needs to be re-posted following on from the new Batman movie. A guy here at the office said "That's so far fetched" to which I replied "No it isn't , I read about it on Damn Interesting!" and posted him the link.


lfp78
Posted 05 September 2012 at 03:44 pm

I just hope no one tells Michael O'Leary of RyanAir about this...

"Just stand in a big long row there, and keep still! What are ye complaining at?! - you're only paying 10 euros!"


Wendy
Posted 30 August 2014 at 11:18 pm

jimmyhdx said: "Check out he movie,"Green Berets" starring John Wayne. They us the skyhook to extract a captured enemy general out of Vietnam."

James Bond (Sean Connery) and Claudine Auget are whisked from a life raft by a Skyhook-equipped plane in Thunderball.


Dacey Green
Posted 24 December 2014 at 03:19 am

Yes, you are allowed to express your opinion in a way that you see fit. However, when criticizing, try to do it contructively whenever possible. The authors don't get paid for this free service, so a little thank you shouldn't hurt.
And also, I find that many times what makes the articles from interesting to damn interesting are the comments left by readers that really add a lot to the article. On the other hand, comments like yours, I find useless."

I was going to just let the "Prince" bashing pass me by, as an amusing troll, but after a massive Xmas sequential read of the articles (and the associated comments), I have to concur... Especially when the idiot posts "Second!"... I have had enough... Like others have said previously, the coments usually add information, but you, Sir, add nothing with your banal posts... Please refrain from doing so in the future... Merry Christmas. :-(


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