60 Years Ago: That time a Bear Bailed out of a Bomber– at Mach 1
The Convair B-58 Hustler was one of the sexiest bombers ever constructed and I’ll fight you on that.
Some 96 feet long from tip-to-tip, it was powered by a quartet of GE J79 engines– the same used on the twin-engine F-4 Phantom. With some 60,000 lbf of thrust with afterburners lit, the Hustler could touch Mach 2 for short periods and could carry four B43 or B61 nuclear bombs to a combat radius of 1,740nm, with a ceiling approaching 70,000 feet.
In a fix to the problem of having its crew bail out at such high speeds and altitude, the Hustler used clamshell ejection capsules, thus:
To make sure the capsules worked, they were tested with live chimps and bears, with the latter, a 108-pound female black bear named Yogi, being shot out of a B-58 at 35,000 feet while going Mach 1.3, some 60 years ago this week.
Yogi landed eight minutes later with relatively minor injuries, i.e. a nose bleed and some bruising.
Keep in mind the only previous supersonic ejection on file at the time was that of an F-100 Super Saber pilot, test pilot George Smith, who left his aircraft in 1955 while it was going Mach 1.05 and spent the next five days in a coma.