National Geographic : 1959 Jun
Starved for Oxygen, a Groggy Cadet Fumbles a Test in the Altitude Chamber Head sagging, eyes resisting focus, hands seem ingly detached, the volunteer experiences flight conditions without an oxygen mask at 35,000 feet. Fellow cadets, masks in place, watch their listless classmate fail a simple problem of inserting numbered pegs into proper holes. The airman at right stands ready to replace the mask before the trainee blacks out. Surprisingly, the Academy produces no full fledged pilots. "We have only four years to train future air commanders," an officer told the author. "Judgment, character, and a sound education come first. There's time enough to learn flying later." "If you're writing a ski story," she said, "you missed the most spectacular show we've had in weeks. The ski patrol told me they tailed a novice who fell 23 times, hit two snow fences, and reached the bottom of the mile-and-a-quarter slope alive. I wonder if he'd ever been on skis before." "You can quit wondering," I said. "He hadn't." Then I set out afoot and found the Acad emy team whizzing magnificently down a far steeper slope than the one I had come down. I tried to write down the names they gave me for the maneuvers they were performing, but my pen was frozen. I stood in their midst to have my picture taken, but my camera was frozen. I gave somebody my ski lift ticket and went back to Colorado Springs. Wing Marches as One Man The ski interlude took place on a Saturday. I slept 14 hours that night and consequently failed to make chapel the next morning. Other wise I missed very few cadet activities. I learned about cadet clubs-devoted to things like fishing, debating, and mountain eering. There are clubs in geography and skeet. A lacrosse club turned up so many players that the Academy may authorize an intercollegiate team in this sport. On the windy parade ground I watched the Wing march thrillingly behind its band (page 844). A thousand gloved hands slapped a thousand rifles in metallic unison as the cadets presented arms. "Bill wrote me just where he'd be in the formation," wailed the mother of a fourth classman making her first visit to the Acad emy, "but they all look so much alike in those uniforms I can't find him!" I could have told her she was due for an 872 other shock when she did meet her son: Bill's greeting would be distinctly decorous. "PDA" -public display of affection-is a fairly seri ous cadet offense. I saw workmen hurrying to finish the social center, Academy counterpart of a civilian uni versity's student union building, in time for graduation festivities. I inspected the sites of the gymnasium, stadium, and golf course. I heard the hope expressed that Congress someday would authorize an airfield. I visited the library, which takes up three floors in a wing of the academic building. In the huge periodical room I saw newspapers and magazines I never dreamed existed. One of them, I learned after a cadet translated its title, was the official publication of the Rus sian Air Force!