Now It Can Be Told! - Secrets of the Navy's Parachute Lifeboat
An airborne lifeboat which could be dropped from a large bomber, yet compact enough to be carried in the torpedo-bay of a shipborne plane and strong enough to withstand heavy weather, was tried out in the Solent by naval and civil technicians of the Royal Naval Safety Equipment School. It was dropped on three parachutes by a Barracuda aircraft from a height of 700 ft. As it landed on the water three men, who had been standing by in a rubber dinghy, clambered on board, and within a few minutes were sailing smartly towards the harbour.
It is “bombed up” in the aerial torpedo bay of the aircraft. During its descent three rockets were fired electrically – one carrying out a sea anchor to keep the boat's head to wind, the other two on either beam carrying 150 yards of buoyant line for the rescued men to seize and thus haul themselves into the boat.
The lifeboat, 17 ft. 9 ins. long, and with full equipment weighing 1,200 lb., is built of two mahogany skins supported by linseed oil-soaked fabric. It is fitted with buoyancy chambers, fore and aft, which are automatically inflated as the boat leaves the aircraft, ensuring self-righting in all weathers. In a rough sea the boat rights itself from a complete capsize in 12 seconds.
Besides its mast and set of sails, it carries a 4-h.p. auxiliary engine which produces a speed of 4˝ knots over a range of 120 miles. Rubber, drop keel, bilge pump, rope ladders, oars and compass are all provided, and a complete survival equipment is carried in watertight hatches. This includes water-purifying units sufficient to make 45 pints, self-heating soup, condensed mil, cigarettes, flying rations, a heliograph, first-aid outfits, supplies of warm clothing, and a radio transmitter with range of 200 miles.
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