J.A.T.O. Myth or Legend?
As the Department's P.I.O., I receive inquires several times a day about
accidents, drug busts, and investigations we are conducting. About two years ago
I picked up the phone and researched the answer to what has now become an
Arizona myth. Instead of telling you the Question, I'll relate the story in one
of many versions that are circulating on the Internet.
"Top honors for the human projectile of the month goes to an as yet
unidentified dude who we're told is also a serious contender for the annual
Darwin Award. That prestigious prize is given posthumously to the person who
does the human gene pool the greatest service by removing himself from it in the
most extraordinary and stupid fashion. Well, the Darwin folks might see it that
way, but we consider it a gallant, if not brainless, form of ballistic
"Troopers from the Arizona Highway Patrol got on to this historic event after
motorists reported some mysterious scorched and blackened scars on a stretch of
deserted highway. The more officers found, the stranger the case became, until
they pulled back and launched a full-scale investigation. Here's what they
"JATO Units are basically huge containers of solid rocket fuel used to
achieve jet assisted takeoff, typically lifting gig transports into the air from
rough ground and short runways, or shooting overloaded planes from the decks of
short aircraft carriers. They were not, I repeat, not designed to augment the
inherent boost factor of a 1967 Chevy Impala. But we guess, lets call him,
"ZIPPY," didn't know that when he hooked one up to his ride". Old ZIPPY
apparently chose his runway carefully, selecting a nice long lonely piece of
straight-as-a-string highway, in good repair. Not guessing he might need a bit
more than five miles of zoom surface, ZIPPY'S test track had that far down the
strip a gentle rise on a sloping turn. Anyway, the Zipster kicked the tires and
lit the fire and ran his Chevy up to top cruising speed and then lit the
ignition. Investigators know exactly where this happened judging from the
extended patch of burned and melted asphalt". "The pocket calendar boys figure
Zip reached maximum thrust within five seconds, punching that old Chevy up to
well in excess of 350 mph and counting a full burn for another 20 to 25 seconds.
Early in that little sprint in roughly the 2.5 mile mark the human hydro-shock
stood on the brakes, melting them completely and blowing the tires rapidly,
reducing all four skins to liquefied trails on the pavement". Remember that
gentle rise on the turn, that is where ZIPPY concluded his land-speed record
attempt and went for aerial honors, ultimately reaching an altitude of 125 feet
and still climbing when his flight abruptly ended. We'll never know how far or
how high the big Zip might have gone; a cliff face of solid rock got in the way,
posing a serious violation of the laws of physics when two chunks of matter were
attempting to occupy the same space at the same time." "Zip gave it hell for
blasting a 3-foot crater in the Terra very firma. The best modern forensic
science could do was identify the car's make, model and year. As for ZIP, only
trace evidence was found of bone, teeth and hair embedded in the back of the
crater, also splinters of fingernails embedded in what is believed to be a piece
of the steering wheel."
"If there isn't room for this in the Guinness Book of World Records, then
there damn sure ought to be an honorable mention."
Even after two years, I receive about five calls a month from around the
country from people wanting to know, "did it really happen?"
What do you think?
Officer Bob Stein, #2665
Public Information Officer
I have asked permission from "Darwin" to publish some aviation related stories
on this page, in the mean time go to the
Darwin Awards site.
I don't think that there are any stories that are directly related to
aviation... But a couple of stories have an aviation content.
Like the guy that "flew" with balloons attached to a chair.