The view from above: Fascination of air travel draws pilots, daredevils of all stripes

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March 9, 2018 - 12:00 AM

You’re in the cockpit of a B-1 bomber. It’s the middle of the night. You’re somewhere over northern New Mexico, slicing through the black sky at about 600 knots. There are four of you in the plane. The copilot to your right, his face made ghoulish by the green glow of the instrument panel. Seated behind you — you can see them if you strain — are your two weapons systems officers. Outside the aircraft is all engine noise and rushing air.

And then it happens: the plane begins to fall from the sky.

You check your altimeter: 15,000 feet. You’re losing altitude. 10,000 now. 9,000. 8,000. The plane is no longer under your control. 3,000 feet, now 2,000. The ground closing in. You’re at 1,000 feet. And then, at precisely 500 feet above the desert floor, the 400,000 pound metal casket that is towing you earthward ceases its descent, landing like a feather on an invisible cushion of air.

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