Published — Sunday 23 December 2012
Last update 22 December 2012 11:59 pm
WASHINGTON: When the US Air Force was designing its first supersonic jet bomber in the 1950s, it turns out bears were an essential part of the process, helping to test the plane’s new ejection seats during the Cold War, according to i09.com. The website has put together a summary of the role bears played in testing the supersonic Convair B-58 Hustler.
Apparently, because Himalayan and American black bears are reasonably close in size to humans, they were deemed acceptable substitutes, after a team of humans died in an early ejection test. So, while Chief Warrant Officer E.J. Murray became the first human to successfully eject from a B-58 at nonsupersonic speeds on Feb. 28, 1962, it was a 2-year-old, female black bear that made it into the history books for the first successful supersonic ejection from the aircraft. That occurred about a month later, on March 21.
Statistically, the bears actually fared better than their human counterparts: While a team of humans died in an early ejection test of the B-58, no bears died during the later test runs. However, in an extremely unsettling twist, the bears were euthanized so their bodies could be examined after the ejection tests.