The JATO/Impala Story

The Arizona (USA) Highway Patrol came upon a pile of smoldering metal embedded in the side of a cliff rising above the road at the crest of a curve. Wreckage resembled that at an airplane crash, but it was a car--make and model unidentifiable at the scene.

A lab figured out the story. It seems the driver had somehow gotten hold of a JATO unit (Jet Assisted Take Off--actually a solid fuel rocket) that's used to give heavy military transport planes an extra "push" taking off from short airfields.

He drove his Chevy Impala out into the desert and found a long, straight stretch of road. Then he attached the JATO unit to his car, jumped in, got up some speed and fired off the jet device. The cops calculate that the driver of the car...hit JATO ignition at a distance of about 3 miles from the crash site. Ashphalt was scorched and melted there.

Reaching maximum thrust within 5 seconds, causing the Chevy to reach speeds well in excess of 350 mph and continuing at full power for an additional 20-25 seconds, the driver, soon to be pilot, most likely would have experienced G-forces usually reserved for dog fighting F-14 jocks under full afterburners, basically causing him to become insignificant for the rest of the event.

The individual remained on the highway for about 2.5 miles (15-20 seconds) before the driver applied and completely melted the brakes, blowing the tires and leaving thick rubber marks on the road surface.

Became airborne for an additional 1.4 miles, impacting the cliff face at a height of 125 feet and leaving a black crater three feet deep in the rock. Most of the driver's remains were not recoverable; however, small fragments of bone, teeth and hair were extracted from the crater and fingernail shards were removed from a piece of debris believed to be a portion of the steering wheel.