High flight

What is involved with operating the ER-2 aircraft NASA uses for research flights? Mark Broadbent looks at this unique platform and speaks with one of the pilots entrusted with flying it


One of two ER-2s operated by NASA as part of the Airborne Science Program.
Carla Thomas/NASA

Dean Neeley goes where few other humans ever will. He routinely lies at 70,000ft, more than twice the altitude of a typical commercial flight, in the NASA ER-2 High Altitude Platform.

At this height, above 98% of the Earth’s atmosphere, wearing a spacesuit and helmet because of the extreme pressures outside, Neeley lies airborne science and research missions lasting for up to eight hours. He is one of just four NASA pilots who ly this very high-lying specialist lying laboratory.

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