Image of the Air Force wings with the museum name underneath

Open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. 
FREE Admission & Parking

Enlisted Airmen on the Cutting Edge

Enlisted Airmen made a profound impact on aircraft, spacecraft, and automobile safety by participating in cutting edge research during the 1940s and 1950s. They volunteered for these assignments, often at great personal risk.

Ejection Seat Pioneer
First Sergeant Lawrence Lambert became the first person in the United States to eject from an aircraft in-flight using an ejection seat in August 1946. Flying more than 300 mph at an altitude of 6,000ft, he shot forty feet in the air at nearly forty mph. The rapid acceleration caused tremendous strain—as much as 12 to 14 G’s. Fortunately, the seat operated as intended and Sgt. Lambert parachuted to safety.

Sergeant Lambert’s successful ejection seat test proved that pilots could safely escape from aircraft.

Rocket Sled Riders
In the mid-1940s, Air Force flight surgeon and physician Col John Stapp began studying the effects of high speed travel on the human body. Stapp and other test subjects rode in rocket-powered sleds which could reach 600 mph in six seconds, then slammed to a stop.

One of Col Stapp’s volunteers, MSgt William Rhea, made fourteen sled runs and volunteered for repeated exposures to high g-force levels. Airman Second Class Alton Yates volunteered for sixty-five rides to show the human body could endure space travel. Their work proved that it was not g-forces that resulted in most high speed deaths, but the unrestrained body’s contact with the vehicle.

This discovery led to improved cockpit safety and the first seatbelts in commercial automobiles.

Northrop “Gee-Whizz” Decelerator Sled

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