The weirdest flight ever – Alaska plane hits headlines

Before electric cars or driverless cars, one plane hit the headlines for having a remarkable amount of power.

Alaskan skiers wrote in 2009 about catching a splashy ride on a plane that had a maximum speed of 140 knots and had a top speed of 78 knots in the air (meaning it could reach 84mph in the air).

The NTSB’s website gives a fascinating account of the flight.

The aeroplane, it notes, made the impossible possible.

Unlike planes of the past, it was capable of throwing three passengers into the air at once.

The plane, a RAPA YMCA SF55 jet, was a rare example of a giant plane that was supposed to be a workhorse of the 1930s and 1940s, but was progressively replaced by more reliable designs for flying trains, buses and large industrial and military transport planes.

This plane was so unique that it was the only one ever made.

The NTSB considers it an important contribution to the evolution of military aviation.

The aeroplane was flown by William Lynn “Wally” Sullivan, a record-breaking skier.

He had wanted a plane that could drop passengers off from parachutes attached to each side. He bought one from Eastern Airlines, built it himself and flew it between Anchorage and Juneau.

Sullivan claimed to have never had a passenger onboard in that flight, but reports at the time say he was in the air while he was dropping one of the passengers off.

Many questions about the plane and its safety remain unanswered.

For one thing, it is not known who first took a step in that direction. Did Sullivan wander into his pocket or open his jaw wide enough to actually get off a line?

Could he have landed on his feet, as he tried to do?

Could he, like so many other commercial pilots, have only used the 20 foot (6.2m) wingspan of the plane for short distances?

Could he have managed to decelerate rapidly, even fast enough to lose control – unlike other commercial pilots, there are no official guidelines for this?

And could Sullivan safely navigate to the terminal as the nose neared the ground?

The next question to ask: why did he fly away?

Alas, we may never know, but for now at least the NTSB was right to call Sullivan’s aeroplane “the most bizarre plane ever”.

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