Quantcast

The story of an unplanned and prolonged skydive through a thunderstorm

The Rocketry Forum

Help Support The Rocketry Forum:

Winston

Lorenzo von Matterhorn
Joined
Jan 31, 2009
Messages
9,049
Reaction score
1,160
Rider on the Storm
The story of an unplanned and prolonged skydive through a thunderstorm

https://www.damninteresting.com/rider-on-the-storm/

Excerpt:

In the summer of 1959, a pair of F-8 Crusader combat jets were on a routine flight to Beaufort, North Carolina with no particular designs on making history. The late afternoon sunlight glinted from the silver and orange fuselages as the US Marine Corps pilots flew high above the Carolina coast at near the speed of sound. The lead jet was piloted by 39-year-old Lt Col William Rankin, a veteran of both World War 2 and the Korean War. In another Crusader followed his wingman, Lt Herbert Nolan. The pilots were cruising at 47,000 feet to stay above a large, surly-looking column of cumulonimbus cloud which was amassing about a half mile below them, threatening to moisten the officers upon their arrival at the air field.

Mere minutes before they were scheduled to begin their descent towards Beaufort, William Rankin heard a decreasingly reassuring series of grinding sounds coming from his aircraft’s engine. The airframe shuddered, and most of the indicator needles on his array of cockpit instruments flopped into their fluorescent orange “something is horribly wrong” regions. The engine had stopped cold. As the unpowered aircraft dipped earthward, Lt Col Rankin switched on his Crusader’s emergency generator to electrify his radio. “Power failure,” Rankin transmitted matter-of-factly to Nolan. “May have to eject.”

Unable to restart his engine, and struggling to keep his craft from entering a near-supersonic nose dive, Rankin grasped the two emergency eject handles. He was mindful of his extreme altitude, and of the serious discomfort that would accompany the sudden decompression of an ejection; but although he lacked a pressure suit, he knew that his oxygen mask should keep him breathing in the rarefied atmosphere nine miles up. He was also wary of the ominous gray soup of a storm that lurked below; but having previously experienced a bail out amidst enemy fire in Korea, a bit of inclement weather didn’t seem all that off-putting. At approximately 6:00pm, Lt Col Rankin concluded that his aircraft was unrecoverable and pulled hard on his eject handles. An explosive charge propelled him from the cockpit into the atmosphere with sufficient force to rip his left glove from his hand, scattering his canopy, pilot seat, and other plane-related debris into the sky. Bill Rankin had spent a fair amount of time skydiving in his career—both premeditated and otherwise—but this particular dive would be unlike any that he or any living person had experienced before.

 

H_Rocket

Death by Powerpoint
Joined
Jan 18, 2009
Messages
3,908
Reaction score
262
Location
North Central Texas
I read the book as a boy. Quite the tale. The neat part is after he landed he actually had to hitchhike to get medical care.
 

Maxter

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jan 13, 2015
Messages
118
Reaction score
8
Wasn't the book titled " I rode the Thunder" or something like that? Read it years ago....
 

modeltrains

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jun 29, 2011
Messages
1,371
Reaction score
247
Wasn't the book titled " I rode the Thunder" or something like that? Read it years ago....
Yep, something like that,
William Rankin eventually returned to duty, wrote The Man Who Rode Thunder, and lived another five decades. He died on 6 July 2009, just 20 days shy of what would have been the fiftieth anniversary of his amazing fall.
https://disciplesofflight.com/william-rankins-story/
(where I live has Rankin in its name, likely not connected with him but my mind occasionally connects it)

Turns out he was on with Johnny Carson in 1971, and no, I didn't see it.
http://www.imdb.com/name/nm1660165/
 
Top