The Role Bears Served In Developing Supersonic Military Jet Ejection Seats

The U.S Air Force constantly tests out new technology. However, everything doesn't always go to plan, making the use of human test subjects tricky.

Ejection Safety

The U.S. Air Force was testing a B-58 Hustler in March of 1962. However, it burst into flames.

But a pilot's life wasn't at risk. The flames were a part of a test of the plane's new ejection capsules, and instead of a pilot in the capsule, there was a bear.

Getting pilots safely out of planes at supersonic speed was quite the conundrum for the Air Force. So while they began their tests with people they found at unemployment, they ultimately switched to using animals.

Animal Test Subjects

They had one chimpanzee and six bears that were used to test the capabilities of capsules and ejection seats. Then, the Air Force moved to flying the aircraft up into the air, then testing the ejection seats.

The animals were placed into the capsules with sensors and with a pretty solid dose of drugs. Often, they were just fine upon landing, albeit a little on the loopy side.

However, not every test was incident-free. All the animals were prescreened, but a bear's brain condition was not found before its test flight. Unfortunately, due to its condition, the bear died. A couple of other bears had some minor injuries and bruising during their flights.

While the animals survived the test flights, the Air Force wanted to move back to human flight tests, so they autopsied each animal to ensure there were no internal injuries.

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