Ever since the Wright brothers used a falling weight from a tower to accelerate some of their early aircraft on takeoff when winds alone were not enough, the need to apply external energy to achieve flying speed has been recognized and pursued in different ways. The Wright’s device was an early form of a catapult, a system much-modified and used by aircraft carriers still.
But another takeoff booster found favor because it could be attached to many types of aircraft and did not require a modified runway or takeoff surface. Commonly known as JATO, for jet-assisted takeoff, it is also called RATO for rocket-assisted takeoff. You get the idea from either acronym — a special thruster helps accelerate the aircraft to give it flying speed more quickly. [Read more…]