The Miraculous Survival of Nicholas Alkemade

Catherine Berridge


This paper discusses the fall of Flight Sergeant Nicholas Alkemade from a height of 18,000ft during the Second World War.  It uses simple mechanical models to see whether such a fall was in fact possible and comes to the surprising conclusion that it may have been possible to survive the fall.  However this conclusion depends on the analysis of what happened when the airman hit the trees, where certain values i.e. the spring constant of a pine tree branch, are uncertain.   


Historical; Physics; Biomechanics; Mechanics; Terminal velocity; Nicholas Alkemade

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