Ever seen a bear ejecting out of a plane? The US Airforce did just that in 1962.
Post-World-War 2, aviation had progressed significantly and as Jet speeds improved and altitudes increased, it became important to develop safer ejection methods.
As ejection seats became a necessity, the US Airforce began testing ejection seats with capsules to help pilots withstand enormous pressures at high altitudes and speeds. Conventional ejection seats without any protective capsule were grossly inadequate for ejection at such high speeds and would have very likely resulted in fatal injury.
In 1962, The US Airforce began developing an ejection system for pilots of the new Convair B-58 Hustler.
The high speeds and altitudes the B-58 Hustler was designed for, rendered conventional ejection systems useless and hence, testing began for a new ejection system developed by the Stanley Aviation Company in collaboration with the US Airforce.
The new ejection system consisted of a fully enclosed escape capsule which would fold shut before ejection providing the pilot cushion against the harsh conditions at high altitudes and speeds.
However, they couldn’t start testing the new concept on a human subject due to the risk of the ejection going awry and potential loss of life. Instead, to emulate human proportions somewhat, a bear was instead selected for the task.
A two-year-old black bear called “Yogi” was drugged the US Airforce and then strapped into the capsule. The capsule was launched at 35000 feet at supersonic speeds.
Yogi survived the test and landed unharmed 7 minutes, 49 seconds later. While the bear survived the ejection, it was later euthanized to allow examination of any damage to internal organs.