National Geographic : 1965 Sep
doctrination," a course that all jet pilots and flight crews repeat every three years. At An drews Air Force Base near Washington, D. C., I joined a class to learn the hazards and dis comforts of high-altitude flight. They taught me about hypoxia, the short age of oxygen that insidiously deadens the brain. They put me into a low-pressure cham ber to feel what it is like at 43,000 feet, where air pressure is reduced by five-sixths, and where a man loses conscious ness in 15 seconds without Plunging dow extra oxygen. tical decelerato I learned about g-force, toastoptotes the stress on the body when a plane makes a fast turn at high speed, and about pilots' g-suits that inflate to help counteract this stress. They explained egress pro cedures-how to get out of a fast-moving jet whose en gine has "flamed out," or failed. I learned how to trig ger the ejection seat to ex plode me out of the cockpit in an emergency; how to de ploy a parachute, control its descent, and land without breaking a leg; how to get into a life raft; and how to use the survival kit attached to each parachute. Equipped with all this knowledge (which I bleakly hoped I would remember if the time ever came), I began flying in supersonic planes. Sound Barrier All Velvet At Eglin, home of the Air Proving Ground Center, I became a member of the se lect Mach-2 club, those who have flown at twice the speed of sound. The plane was the McDonnell F-4C Phantom II, TAC's newest (and, at 1,606 miles an hour, fastest) operational tactical fighter. My pilot, Capt. Clyde H. Garner, offered to show me what the twin-engine Phantom can do. With full afterburners on, we shot off from Eglin's run way and turned on our tail for a maximum-perform 335 ance climb. Gravity seemed to have lost its grasp on the plane, although it was ramming me into the back of my seat. The green-and brown landscape receded so fast that I felt I was looking through the wrong end of a tele scope. In 50 seconds we had climbed 20,000 feet, nearly four miles up. Now we were over the Gulf of Mexico. Captain Garner said, "You ready? We're go ing to go supersonic." nward in a blur of orange, an experimenter in a ver r at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, will jolt t the body's ability to withstand g-forces. EKTACHROMEBY WILLIAMALBERTALLARD© N.G.S.