Robert Edison Fulton, Jr. – Inventor and Adventurer

16 12 2011

In one of my typical research side-trips, I came across this fellow, Robert Fulton, Jr. I originally was going to post about his novel surface-to-air extraction system (below), but I quickly found that Fulton himself was quite an interesting guy; an adventurous type, he rode a motorcycle around the world based on a glib comment (from him) at a dinner party:

At a dinner party at his friends’ house, a young woman asked him if he would be sailing home soon.

He answered: “No, I am going around the world on a motorcycle.” Robert Fulton would say for the rest of his life that he had no idea why he said such a thing.

He rode a Douglas motorcycle, fitted with extra gas tanks, lots of luggage (for water and supplies), and “common automobile tires” to enable him to find spares and make repairs more easily abroad. He travelled from England through France, Germany, Austria, Yugoslavia, Bulgaria and Greece. Eventually he ended up in Damascus and rode through the Syrian desert to Baghdad.

He rode sixteen kilometers on the road out of Damascus. Then he saw a sign showing the way toward Baghdad. It was here that the road ended. In front of him was the great desert. Robert Fulton was alone for most of the trip. He worried about his motorcycle. If the engine failed, he could die of lack of water before anyone could find him. He could fall off and break a leg or arm. The severe heat could kill him. But the motorcycle did not fail him. He survived the fierce heat. He arrived safely in Baghdad.

(Quote courtesy of: )

He ended up going through Afghanistan, India, Vietnam, China, Malaysia and Japan, took a ship to San Francisco, and rode cross-country to New York. Now that’s quite a trip even today, with modern motorcycles and equipment (and support infrastructure along the way, modern roads, etc.). Imagine that kind of trip in 1932!

His grandfather was ran stagecoach passages through the Old West, in the post-Civil War days, which ended up becoming the Greyhound Bus Lines, later when his uncle took over the business.

He died in 2004 at age 95. Here’s a great interview the NY Times did with him in March of 2000.

Fulton surface-to-air recovery system –STARS

During the Cold War, the U.S. military and CIA decided they needed a way to retrieve people and cargo from the ground, using an airplane, without actually landing the aircraft. Basically, they anticipated a need to retrieve people (like spies) from the ground who are out of helicopter range (which can obviously remain airborne with no horizontal velocity, and don’t require an airstrip to land).

Beginning in the early 1950’s, Robert Fulton devised this extraction system – what was later termed STARS for Surface-to-Air Recovery System.

Basically, on the ground the person (or cargo) wears a harness, attached by a long rope to a weather balloon. The balloon is set adrift, and an airplane with a special rig on the nose, wings and cargo compartment flies into the rope (beneath the balloon), and snags the person or cargo on the ground. The person being lifted gets a “swift kick in the pants” as I read somewhere, as they become airborne and begin “flying” behind the aircraft, which then uses a winch to reel them in. Sounds terrifying if you ask me!

See it in action below.





MC-130 pickup:

Cargo pickup:

It was even featured in a James Bond movie, Thunderball, at the end:



One response

25 12 2011
motorcycles: Robert Edison Fulton, Jr. – Inventor and Adventurer | Helmet Hair Motorcycle News

[…] full post on Yahoo Pipes Keyword Monitor Category: UncategorizedTags: Adventurer > Edison > Fulton > inventor > motorcycles > […]

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