21 March 1962

Yogi, an American black bear used as a test subject.
Yogi, an American black bear used as a test subject.

21 March 1962: A black bear named “Yogi” was ejected from a supersonic Convair B-58A Hustler to test the B-58’s escape capsule. Ejected at 35,000 feet (10,668 meters) from a B-58 flying at Mach 1.3 (approximately 870 miles per hour/1,400 kilometers per hour), the bear landed unharmed 7 minutes, 49 seconds later.

Previous testing with human subjects had resulted in fatalities so it was decided to continue with animal subjects while problems were resolved. Black bears (Ursus americanus) were used for these tests because their internal organs are arranged similar to humans.

An escape capsule is launched from teh Defensive Systems Officer position of a Convair B-58 Hustler. (U.S. air Force)
An escape capsule is launched from the Defensive Systems Officer position of a Convair B-58 Hustler. (U.S. Air Force)

The rocket booster carried the capsule 225 feet (69 meters meters) above the B-58 before beginning its descent.

Regrettably, although the bears survived the ejection tests, they were killed so that their organs could be examined. This would not be acceptable today.

© 2016, Bryan R. Swopes

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2 thoughts on “21 March 1962

  1. This story was a minor legend in the Flight Surgeons’ office at Edwards back in the day (circa 1985). There was no internet back then, so when we heard stories like this, we’d ask around some of the ‘old heads’ to find out if was true. Yep, they really did this.

    What I heard (and cannot confirm) was that in one of the first tests, they underestimated the duration of the sedation given to the bear. When the recovery team got to the capsule after it landed, the bear was wide awake…and really (as in REALLY) pissed off.

    Then there was the story of the supersonic jackrabbit, but that’s a tale (tail?) for another day…

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