IF YOU ARE LUCKY—EVERY SO OFTEN IN YOUR LIFE YOU MEET AMAZING PEOPLE.
IN MY CASE, ONE OF THE MOST AMAZING WAS THE INVENTOR, ROBERT EDISON FULTON
I have written about Bob before, but I am prompted to write about him today because I have just heard from Bob’s son, Rawn Fulton—a very talented documentary filmmaker. I was delighted to do so. I had vowed never to lose touch with the Fultons—an extraordinarily talented family—but sometimes life does not cooperate. I am ashamed of my omission. Bob’s memory deserves better.
Bob and I became friends when I was researching his invention, SKYHOOK, to feature in THE DEVIL’S FOOTPRINT.
Skyhook is a rather extraordinary rescue system. An aircraft drops a package which consists of a flight suit, a cable, a balloon and helium—and then a specially equipped aircraft captures the balloon, the subject rises into the sky—and is then reeled into the aircraft. Yes, I know it sounds impossible—surely the subject would be wrenched to his death—but geometry doesn’t work that way. In fact, the subject rises at an an acceptable speed and can be safely recovered. The Fulton system was used for years with only one fatality. In that case the subject was reeled in successfully, but then just fell out of the aircraft whose rear was open. Lessons were learned from that tragedy. Skyhook was used extensively for several decades, but eventually it was felt that helicopters could do a more cost effective job. Arguably they can, if within range, but Skyhook can be used anywhere. This is a debate that has not yet been resolved.
Bob Fulton then invited me to visit and stay, and I was just plain fascinated with the man. We talked then, and subsequently, for many hours. Although already in his early Nineties, he had all his faculties and was an extremely entertaining conversationalist. Later on he visited me in Ireland and stayed with me. He was a perfect guest. He was a spare, elegant, humorous, interesting man. As I witnessed when we we went to a party nearby, regardless of his age, women were fascinated by him.
Bob did so much in his life that there is no way I can do him justice in a blog. He really demands a book. However, pending that, I have learned from Rawn’s Searchlight Films website that there are at least two documentaries on him—both Rawn’s work, needless to say.
ONE MAN CARAVAN, 3 part series, 30 minutes each. The life, travels and inventions of my father, Robert E. Fulton, Jr., who in 1932 rode a Douglas motorcycle around the world, then invented the Gunairstructor (the first-ever fighter pilot fixed aerial gunnery trainer), the Airphibian (the first flying car ever approved as airworthy by the FAA, now in the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum) and Skyhook (an air-rescue system to pick up a man with an airplane in flight). Independently produced with Antenne 2, France. Broadcast in France and French territories worldwide. Also available in english. Director, Cinematographer, Editor.
TWICE UPON A CARAVAN, 53 minutes. 1932-33 solo around-the-world motorcycle trip filmed by my father,Robert E. Fulton, Jr. Original 35mm footage taken by him at age 23 has been edited with his reflections about the trip from his perspective as an older man. A unique & rare look at countries, landscapes, monuments and civilizations that no longer exist. It also serves as primary source material for anthropological, cultural and history studies. Music by Steven Schoenberg. Distributed by Whitehorse Press. Winner: Telluride Indie Festival. Producer, Editor.
The following is a quoted from Bob’s book, ONE MAN CARAVAN
“All of us,' he said, 'have hopes of being poet, artist, discoverer, philosopher, scientist; of possessing the attributes of all these simultaneously. Few are permitted to achieve any of them in daily life. But in travel we attain them all. Then we have our day of glory, when all our dreams come true, when we can be anything we like, as long as we like, and, when we are tired of it, pull up stakes and move on. Travel -- the solitude of the mountains, the emptiness of the desert, the delicacy of the minaret; eternal change, limitless contrast, unending variety.' (Eric Lang)”
― Robert Edison Fulton Jr., One Man Caravan