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Swan, William G
American stunt pilot. Pilot of first American rocket-boosted glider. On 4 June 1931 he rocketed aloft over Atlantic City, New Jersey. He toured the country over the next year, including rocket launches from a hot air balloon. He died in 1933 in a pyrotechnic skydiving stunt in Texas.

Born: 1902. Died: 1933-04-09.

Swan was a stunt pilot with a unique angle - rocket power. Initially he wanted to promote himself and the Steel Pier amusement park in Atlantic City. On 4 June 1931 he attached ten solid-fuel rocket motors of 50 pounds thrust each to his high-winged glider, just beneath his seat. All the rockets could be ignited by the pilot. In front of a crowd of 2000 people, Swan ignited just one rocket. The glider, from a standing start, took off and flew 1,000 feet distance at an altitude of 100 feet. The next day, Swann attached twelve rockets (in two bundles of six) to the glider and ignited all of them. Despite facing a strong wind, he took off at a speed of 35 mph, managed to achieve an altitude of 200 feet and remained up for eight minutes.

In 1932, at Aurora, Illinois, Swan tried a new death defying stunt. He had his glider borne several thousand feet up by a huge hot-air balloon, then cut loose and sky-rocketed in immense circles. He finally reached the ground safely but almost came to grief when the deflated balloon nearly hit his glider in mid-air. This flight, said Swan, was a big step toward cross-ocean rocket-plane travel, which he saw as an actuality before many more years have passed.

By 9 April 1933 Swan had hundreds of stunts under his belt, including 300 parachute jumps, but was described as temperamental and moody. As part of a skydiving exibition at the Del Mar Beach Resort on Brazos Island, Texas, he worked out an elaborate routine. He would bail out of a Commandaire, dropping flares and rockets on small chutes as he was in free fall. Finally he would ignite a rocket strapped to his back and head toward the beach, to land in front of the crowd. He finally bailed out at 8500 feet at dusk well out to sea. He had difficulties immediately. The small flares failed to ignite. His rocket wouldn't fire either. His parachute opened at 6,000 feet, but he made no move to manipulate the lines to head toward shore. He disappeared into the mist above the ocean well out to sea. Subsequent searches did not find his body or the parachute. His wife and two sons, living with her parents in Cumberland, Maryland, were notified of his death by the resort owner, Colonel Sam Robinson.

Family: Early Rocketry, Rocketplane. Country: USA. Bibliography: 17, 6081.

1931 January 4 - . Launch Vehicle: Swan.
1933 April 9 - .

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