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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 research".

"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 pieced together",

"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.


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