National Geographic : 1955 Aug
found unexpected trouble. Julian, to my consterna tion, had to make a night belly landing because the left main wheel would not come down. With the other two wheels also re tracted, our T-33 raised a spectacular trail of sparks as it slithered down the concrete runway. For a few moments we were severely jostled when the plane spun off the runway before skidding to a stop. Harness Protects But, thanks to an avia tion medicine develop ment, neither of us was injured. Tight safety harness, fitted across shoulders and abdomen, kept our bodies from jack knifing into the instru ment panels. It is far worse to land a jet on two wheels than on none at all. For a time Julian had not been sure that he could retract our gear and make a safe landing, so he had in structed me again on ejec tion, as he had before take-off. This escape tech nique is another contribu tion of aviation medicine, and it has saved many lives. Every jet flyer sits atop 261 National Geographic Photographer Rohert F. Sisson Needles under the Skin Detect the Effects of Fatigue A doctor at the Aero Medical Laboratory gently attaches needlelike elec trodes that will pick up the volunteer's reactions during a marathon experi ment in a grounded cockpit. Background chart diagrams another man's performance in an earlier test lasting 56 hours. When that session ended, the subject, still going strong, went home and watched television. a giant firecracker. In emergency he can jettison his canopy and trigger an explosive charge that will blow him and his seat out of the aircraft. Then he must release his seat belt and open his para chute. A small oxygen bottle strapped to the leg or parachute assembly keeps him breath ing in rarefied air. New devices now coming into use will separate pilots from their seats and open their parachutes automatically. One of these gadgets is, in effect, a little time clock sensi tive to atmospheric density. It can be set to release a parachute at any height below 20,000 feet. But recently increased jet speeds and alti tudes have complicated the ejection problem. Wind blast may tear away helmet and oxygen mask. Seats may tumble or spin briefly at an initial rate of more than 180 revolutions per minute, creating dangerous cyclic G forces. Douglas Aircraft, working with aeromedical personnel, has developed several promising experimental ejection methods. One is a seat that sprouts wings to give stability against tumbling (page 268). Another is a capsule, shaped like a fat letter B, in which the pilot sits. If necessary, he can close the capsule's doors and blast himself from the cockpit.