National Geographic : 1926 Dec
THE NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE of the XCO5-A, according to the conserva tive Federation methods of reckoning, proved to be 38,704 feet, there is no rea son why it could not easily scale Mount Everest's peak with thousands of feet to spare. STALLED ENGINE COULD GLIDE 75 MILES The gliding ratio of this plane, which is 13' to I, would also be favorable. This means that if the airplane were one mile high and the engine suddenly stopped functioning, it could glide with a dead engine, theoretically, a distance of 13'2 miles. Actually, the distance would be a little less because of the light air. From an altitude of six miles, the airplane could be glided about 75 miles; so that it does not seem too much to believe that if the engine stopped above the summit of Mount Everest, the pilot could glide to a place of safety. On my last attempt for the world's rec ord, April Io, 1926, the gasoline supply of the XCO5-A became exhausted when I was hanging at the ceiling at an official altitude of between 37,000 and 38,000 feet. I had been blown back by the wind while climbing, so that when the engine stopped I was still drifting backward, and was between Springfield and Columbus, Ohio, about 45 miles from the starting point at Dayton. Because of the heavy wind, I dived the plane downward in order to gain head way by excess speed, pointing its nose to ward Dayton, but scarcely hoping to reach my starting point. As I came lower the wind direction changed, and when I reached Dayton I was a mile above the city, much to my pleasure, and was able to land at the home field. This illustrates the fact that even though motor trouble were to develop when well above Mount Everest, the plane could be glided over and down the steep slopes at least to a point where one could live with out artificial oxygen, and later continue the descent in safety. In the Principality of Nepal, which lies at the southern base of the peak, there are places to land, where the elevation is about 7,000 feet, within sight of Mount Everest and 70 or 80 miles from the summit. The question I am most frequently asked after an altitude flight is, "What did it look like up there, Mac ?" Always after I have reached the plane's ceiling I look straight downward over the side and get a great "kick" out of the view almost eight miles vertically beneath me. During January and February of this year it was my good fortune to take off on days which were very cold and clear, immediately after a heavy snowstorm, which had washed the atmosphere clean. The ground temperature was zero, Fah renheit, too cold to be enjoyed by the shivering observers. The earth was pure white, but was dotted and speckled with black. Each of these little dots or smudges, which indicated the position of a city, was trailed by a streamer of black smoke. From my position over Dayton, Ohio, I located the smudges of Indianapolis, Cincinnati, Columbus, and Toledo. The size of the city was indicated by the vary ing lengths of smoke trails. There have been times when the air has been full of dirt and mist, when it has been almost impossible to see the ground; but I could usually find a minute thread of river, usually the Miami or Ohio, breaking through to help me check my position. LONELY WORK AT THE EARTH'S CEILING In the spring, summer, and fall of the year, when the trees are in leaf, the color ings of the cities and fields blur and blend until, at a distance, even the smoke trails become indistinguishable. But always this view is a magnificent thing, and one can easily imagine himself a superior be ing looking upon the work of Lilliputians, so infinitely small does the product of man's labor seem. But the pilot does not dare let his slow thinking mind turn to philosophical rever ies. Instead, he must face the frigid, biting wind, with its attendant discom forts of smoke-begrimed goggles, oxygen mask, and other unnatural appendages, and see to taking his plane safely back to earth. He is quite willing to figure once more in the actions, hopes, and dreams of his fellow Lilliputians. It is lonely work fighting the elements at the Earth's ceiling, but I hope that my six years spent in high altitude experi mental work have produced something of value to our Government.