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1941 Air Race: Porterfield Gets Whipped By JATO Ercoupe!

(click pic for hi-res)  First JATO takeoff ever in the U.S. in 1941... on an Ercoupe?

 OK, it wasn't a real 'air race', but it was a pretty historic event: the first ever JATO (Jet Assisted Take-Off) in the United States. And the massive brute of an airplane chosen to try this new technology? Why the Ercoupe of course... all ~1,200 pounds of it! My research on the internet turned up some confusing info on how much thrust is on display in this picture, but I'm inclined to believe the claim that the Ercoupe is fitted with 12 rockets of about 50 pounds of thrust each. That would explain why the poor little Porterfield barely has its tail off the ground and the Ercoupe is way out front and headed for the heavens... 600 pounds of smoky GO!

 And while it may not seem like much of an accomplishment getting an Ercoupe of the ground so quickly, the usefulness behind the JATO concept after World War II and into the 50's and 60's can't be argued with. This technology made it possible to get airplanes out of really tight places, or to get heavy high-speed aircraft off the ground from normal length runways. And right up until last year, it also gave audiences at select Blue Angels airshows something really cool to see: Fat Albert JATO.

 Actually, looking back, it's pretty cool that the Ercoupe, and airplane so simple it doesn't even have rudder pedals and was just about the most un-exciting airplane ever produced, would have the special honor of being the first ever U.S. JATO aircraft. It sure wiped up the floor with that Porterfield on that cloudless Tuesday back in 1941 : )

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Reader Comments (4)

I remember this picture from Air Progress, billions and billions of years... nah, it was the early 60's. I thought it was airshow smoke at the time. The military also tested a "circular" airport with the Ercoupe on a central tether. That one got shelved pretty quickly, as I recall.

February 25, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterseerjfly

seerjfly- Yeah I remember something about that... I need to post something about that crazy idea, and another military one I learned about recently (that I'm not gonna mention yet). Wow, the crazy things that have been tried at one time or another.

February 25, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMartt (admin)

According to Wikipedia, the aircraft was "fitted with a GALCIT developed solid propellent JATO booster with a thrust of 28 pounds force (125 N)". See:

The information is beneath the same picture you reproduce, on the right of the page.

February 26, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterPeter

Peter- Yeah, I know, and that same info is re-produced in other places on the internet too, but 28 pounds of force isn't gonna produce the results shown in the picture. That's why I referenced the other source that indicates it's 12 rockets of 50 pounds thrust each. That number seems consistent with the performance seen in the picture... which is pretty stunning compared to the Porterfield aircraft. The difference in the sources is why I mention that the info is a bit confusing : )

February 26, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMartt (admin)

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