Rocket Retrospective -- An Ercoupe Led The Way

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Our story in Monday's edition of AVweb about the planned flight of XCOR's rocket-powered Long-EZ reminded one of our readers of an obscure historical event -- the first American manned flight of an aircraft propelled by rocket thrust alone -- which was flown in California on Aug. 23, 1941, in a humble Ercoupe. The propeller of the Ercoupe was removed and 12 rockets installed. The Ercoupe was pulled by a truck to a speed of about 25 mph. Capt. Homer Boushey released the tether, fired the rockets, and climbed to about 10 or 20 feet, then landed straight ahead on the runway. An Ercoupe was also used prior to that in a successful test of rocket-assisted takeoff, with three rockets strapped beneath each wing. The airplane took off in only 300 feet and 7.5 seconds instead of its usual 581 feet and 13.1 seconds.