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Skyhook Extraction Mechanism Instructions

Artifact Details

An instruction manual attached to a brown cord. The pictures labeled 7 to 10 show soldiers tying themselves to a cord connected to a helium balloon.

CIA used Skyhook to rescue soldiers when it was not safe to fully land an aircraft.

This instruction card was essential for those operating Robert Fulton’s famed “Skyhook.” Skyhook was an adaptation of devices that Great Britain and the United States had used in the 1940s and early 1950s to enable an airplane to pick up people or cargo from the ground without landing. Officers on the ground deployed a helium balloon to lift an approximately 500-foot line into the air. They would then strap cargo or a person to a harness connected to the other end of the line. Persons would sit with the wind to their back and their arms crossed to keep their hands away from their face. A low-flying, slow-moving plane, such as a B-17, with the special Skyhook device on its nose would snag the lift line, sweeping the cargo or person in the harness off the ground. To prevent painful twisting and turning while airborne, persons would simply spread out their arms and legs. The plane’s crew then winched the harness aboard the aircraft within a few minutes.

CIA used this technology operationally in 1962 as part of Operation COLDFEET in which personnel were extracted from the ground after investigating an abandoned Soviet research station in the Arctic. It also served to inspire a scene in the 2008 Batman movie The Dark Knight.

Artifact Specs

29.2 cm x 23 cm

(L x W)

Additional Photos

The reverse side of the manual shows steps 1 to 6, where soldiers unpack the supplies and set up the balloon.


The Debrief: Behind the Artifact - Skyhook

Warning: This video below may contain flickering or flashing scenes.

Learn More

Robert Fulton’s Skyhook and Operation Coldfeet