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Flying Eight Miles Above the Earth 

What is it like - eight miles above earth? How does the rarified atmosphere affect pilot and airplane? Why can't we fly as high as we care to? The author answers these and other questions regarding the vast spaces above the earth. 

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FLYING from Scott Field, Illinois, Captain Hawthorne C. Gray in a free balloon, recently established a new world's altitude record. He reached the unprecedented height of 42,470 feet--which is the farthest man has yet penetrated the unknown regions high above the surface of the earth. 
Previous to Captain Gray's balloon flight, the American record was held by Lieut. John A. Macready who, in a special-built U. S. Government plane, coaxed his laboring motor to a 38,704 foot reading on the recording barograph. 
In these days of aviation's rapid progress, when our planes and our pilots are spanning oceans, when 3,000-mile non-stop flights are not uncommon--why is an eight-mile altitude record of such interest to the world of flying? The answer is that above our heads is a great, unexplored region, a limitless mysterious space of which we have but little knowledge. Span continents and cross oceans as we will, the realm beyond eight miles up holds invisible dangers and obstacles which halt our skyward progress. 
It is through the efforts of aerial explorers like Gray, Macready and 
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Schroeder that we add to our small knowledge of conditions in the world above the clouds. Surviving the dangers of intense cold, scarcity of oxygen and low atmospheric pressure, these men tell us the changing conditions encountered and their effects on pilot and airplane.
The first danger of course, is the intense cold. A temperature of eighty degrees below zero is frequently met in the course of an ascent. For this reason, the pilot is equipped with several suits of woolen underwear, a heavy, knitted outer garment and finally, a fur-lined, padded leather flying suit. Often this latter is electrically heated by resistance wires running through the lining. There are fur-lined gloves and moccasins for hands and feet and a helmet of similar material for the head. An oxygen mask, covering the face, completes the altitude flyer's wardrobe. Then, his goggles covered with non-freezing gelatin to prevent the formation of blinding ice, he is ready for the trip. 
Up to a height of about 20,000 feet the pilot experiences little discomfort except from the cold. But, with the rarification of the atmosphere, he feels a strange depression. The slightest
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movement of hands or feet is a tiring effort. His eyesight becomes blurred and his mind does not function clearly. The light air does not contain enough oxygen for his lung capacity. Hastily he adjusts the oxygen tube in his mask and after a few breaths of the life-giving gas he is again flying comfortably. Up to an altitude of about five miles, the pilot suffers little further discomfort in breathing. But beyond this height, the slightest physical exertion causes a noticeable exhaustion. He needs more and more oxygen as he continues to climb upward. 
Major R. W. Schroeder, of the U. S. Air Corps, who held the altitude record before it was broken by Macready, once ran out of oxygen at a height of 33,000 feet. He at once became unconscious and fell a distance of almost six miles before his mind cleared and he brought his plane in for a perfect landing. But when he reached the field, Macready's eyes were coated with ice, he was almost blinded and it was some days before he recovered from the extreme cold. In this case the accident was caused when the pilot momentarily lifted his goggles to adjust the emergency flask. 

[[image]] How the Clouds Look from Above 
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