16. Gilligan’s Island Slingshot Rescue
In 1945, a group of 24 tourists decided to take a scenic flight over the rainforests of New Guinea. Their aircraft crashed, killing 21 of the group. The survivors’ distress signals were answered almost immediately, but there was no way to land a plane or even drive a truck in the thick tropical forest.
Hiking the 40-mile stretch would be like playing Russian Roulette with a shotgun. Territorial natives aside, the stranded tourists would meet at least some of New Guinea’s many venomous snakes and poisonous insects along the way.
Over the next three months, rescuers airdropped food and supplies but were unable to find a solution. For the three tourists, feelings of gratitude that come with surviving a plane-crash were soon replaced by a mix of desperation and fear. So, by the time someone proposed a borderline-crazy rescue plan, they were ready to try anything.
First off, the whole idea relied on the integrity of a ‘Fanless Faggot’ – an early motor-less air glider. If they could get it high enough, a glider may be able to carry them all to safety. It was airdropped in 16 parts and put together on the ground. And, how do you launch an offensively named, hand-assembled aircraft 20 feet into the air with 3 passengers aboard? With a giant rubber band, of course!
In true 50’s-cartoon fashion, they strapped a bungee cord with a noose to the glider so a low-flying plane could hook it. To everyone’s surprise, the plan worked. The “Fanless Faggot” was slingshot up into the air and proceeded to glide to safety.