Sky Patrol Altitude
If there’s one thing I’ve always appreciated about the Joe brand, it was the team’s diversity. America’s highly-trained special missions group has traditionally been almost as diverse as the country itself. More importantly, those characters were fleshed out in a way that made their race a secondary thing. It’s not like Stalker and Airborne were tokens on the team. Stalker was a no-nonsense, experience soldier who just happened to be African American and Airborne was an excellent soldier who happened to be Native American. As someone who grew up in South Dakota, I never knew that many African Americans, but I knew quite a few Native Americans, so I always appreciate that Hasbro has made sure to pay attention to that American minority group as well. Altitude brought Native Americans into Sky Patrol and while his figure may not be my favorite, it’s nice to see an indigenous American on the Joe’s elite covert insertion team.
Unlike the rest of the Sky Patrol figures, Altitude’s base figure leaves me just a little cold. I wasn’t wild about Airwave’s reuse of the Motor-Viper body, but that was mostly due to the slightly odd color scheme. My problem with Altitude is that his body clearly looks more at home behind the control stick of a fighter jet than it does pounding the ground with the rest of his team. There’s a reason for that, of course, since Altitude uses the body originally made for Slipstream. The high tech flight suit look worked well for Slipstream because he was a fighter jockey, but I’m not wild about it here for Altitude because, yes, Sky Patrol does rely on air power, but the team also fights on the ground after slipping in undetected. Altitude’s body is designed very well and looks like a modern flight suit. The suit is two layers like modern flight suits because there’s the layer that looks like regular clothing but there’s a second layer that’s designed to keep the pilot conscious during high-g turns by preventing the blood from pooling in the pilot’s legs by using pressure to force the blood back up to the head. From what I understand from my friends that are retired from the Air Force, that’s the purpose behind the outer leggings on the figure’s legs. The outer leggings are well designed and you can see the straps that are designed to tighten during high-g maneuvers on the outside. Altitude also has a holster strapped to his right leg. The crotch piece is fairly basic, with a belt, a pair of straps that would loop around his inner thighs (another part of the anti-blackout system), and a computer pack with a cord on it. That computer pack is what gets plugged into the fighter jet in the real world that then runs the automatic system that takes readings from the fighter’s maneuvers to increase or decrease the pressure on the pilot’s legs as the situations warrants. The torso and arms continue the high-tech flight suit look. The upper body is composed of two layers as well, with the chest and upper arms down to the mid-bicep showing off the outer layer while the lower layer is visible from the mid-bicep down. There are tight cuffs at the mid-bicep, again as I understand part of the system that keeps the pilot from blacking out. Over his chest, Altitude also has a metal chest harness that has life support equipment built into it on the front and provides a hard point for a parachute seat to attach to on the back. Topping off the figure, Altitude has a brand new head sculpt. Altitude looks to be about the youngest member of Sky Patrol and I do like seeing a little difference in ages across the Sky Patrol team. I still get a vibe from the overall sculpt that he’s a bit older than the rest of the Joes, but he’s still not quite as old as either Airborne or Skydive. His facial features are fairly neutral and he lacks the deep wrinkles that a lot of the other Sky Patrol figures have. The hair is sculpted slicked back and very short. It’s a good military look, and it makes sense since he’s wearing a helmet a lot of the time. It’s especially important for fighter pilots to keep their hair very short so the helmet fits securely. I had a friend in the Air Force who was allowed to ride second seat in an F-14 and while his hair was by no means exceedingly long, he was advised that he make to remember to get a haircut a couple of days before the experience so everything fit nice and securely. It’s one of those things that non-military folks likely wouldn’t think about, but it’s nice to see a real world detail like that referenced on a Joe. Altitude’s design is solid, but it’s just not one that I’m sure fits with Sky Patrol as much as I would like. Truthfully, because of the design, I’ve always kind of cast Altitude as the team’s transport expert. He’ll fly the team to the site in the Sky Raven, offload them and then stay at a safe altitude until the team needs an extraction. That unfortunately means that he’s kind of the least exciting member of Sky Patrol to me.
Working alongside the very detailed mold, Altitude also has a very detailed paint scheme. The base of the flight suit is a very dark green. It’s a striking color and I like how good it looks on Altitude. The leggings and lower arms are an orangish-brown color that while I haven’t seen on soldiers before does mesh very well with the dark green. Dark brown is used on the figure’s boots, holster, belt, straps, gloves and pouches. It’s a very cohesive color scheme and it looks great. There’s a little bit of silver and gold on the figure, used exclusively on his life support chest harness and while I’m not a big fan of gold and silver together on a figure, it makes sense for it to be used on this part of the figure and it’s used sparingly enough that the figure doesn’t feel too shiny. Up top, Altitude has black hair but unfortunately a very Caucasian skin tone. I don’t know why the Joe line had trouble figuring out that they should mold Native American Joes with a tanner skin tone during the vintage line, but none of the Native American Joes have terribly dark skin and I think that’s kind of a shame. Yes, I know that not all Native Americans have darker skin, but conversely, not all Native Americans have skin light enough they can be mistaken for Caucasian. I’m glad that the Hasbro team has gotten better about making Native Americans actually look Native American with its modern figures. Truthfully, the overly light skin is about the only complaint I have about Altitude’s paint scheme, though, and that’s because it’s a very solid color scheme and it looks great applied to the Slipstream mold.
The accessories for Sky Patrol figures are pretty limited. Most of the money went into the functional parachute pack. I remember this pack as a kid and I wasn’t a terribly big fan of it. The parachute pack was originally released (with a little extra gear) in 1985 as a mail-away offer so you could give any Joe the ability to parachute into combat with a working parachute. The parachute itself works very well, however, putting it back into the parachute pack was always a bit of a pain. There were a lot of ways you could refold it, but only one way that actually fit back in the pack. It’s a nice piece, but as a kid, I just didn’t have the patience to spend that much time getting the parachute folded correctly. I’m pretty sure that after I used my childhood Airborne’s pack a few times, I just folded it up one last time and kind of stopped using it. Altitude’s helmet is a bit of an odd piece in my opinion. The helmet itself is more in line with Airborne’s and Skydive’s in that it doesn’t fully cover his face and head, but the visor is more in line with Drop Zone’s and Airwave’s and that’s kind of an odd combination. The visor’s shape is also just a little strange. I knew that the helmets were properly assembled, but when I was fully gearing up everybody back at home after we got back from Joe Con, KansasBrother thought that the base helmets for Altitude and Drop Zone hauntil he realized how off they looked that switched. Altitude’s helmet looks a little strange, but the color scheme is great. The helmet itself is done in gunmetal gray while the visor is metallic amber. It reminds me a lot of the visors fighter pilots have to block glare. It’s just a shame that the helmet’s design is a little odd. I’ve saved Altitude’s weapon for last because it’s just strange. I don’t even know what to call this thing. It kind of looks like a pistol (though the scale is off for it), but then it’s got a plate sticking out from it, another plate attached to it and a missile that hooks into it. I get that the plates are there to protect Altitude from the missile’s exhaust, but beyond that, I don’t know how this thing would function. It’s clunky and weird and that’s coming from a guy that loved Battle Corps Muskrat with his neck-breaking, helmet-mounted missile launcher. I really don’t know what the Hasbro team was doing with most of the Sky Patrol accessories. Even the ones that looked like real weapons were way out of scale with the Joes. I honestly wonder if these were castoffs from some other cancelled thing Hasbro wanted to do with slightly larger figures but that canceled after the weapons somehow got tooled up. It’s the only way I can make sense out of the bizarre and out of scale weapons that Sky Patrol had gotten switched up and swapped them until he realized how off they looked that switched. Altitude’s helmet looks a little strange, but the color scheme is great. The helmet itself is done in gunmetal gray while the visor is metallic amber. It reminds me a lot of the visors fighter pilots have to block glare. It’s just a shame that the helmet’s design is a little odd. I’ve saved Altitude’s weapon for last because it’s just strange. I don’t even know what to call this thing. It kind of looks like a pistol (though the scale is off for it), but then it’s got a plate sticking out from it, another plate attached to it and a missile that hooks into it. I get that the plates are there to protect Altitude from the missile’s exhaust, but beyond that, I don’t know how this thing would function. It’s clunky and weird and that’s coming from a guy that loved Battle Corps Muskrat with his neck-breaking, helmet-mounted missile launcher. I really don’t know what the Hasbro team was doing with most of the Sky Patrol accessories. Even the ones that looked like real weapons were way out of scale with the Joes. I honestly wonder if these were castoffs from some other cancelled thing Hasbro wanted to do with slightly larger figures but that canceled after the weapons somehow got tooled up. It’s the only way I can make sense out of the bizarre and out of scale weapons that Sky Patrol has.
While I think Airwave is the odd man out in Sky Patrol, Altitude is probably, unfortunately a weaker figure than Airwave just because he looks more at home in a fighter jet than he does in the field. Yes, Sky Patrol was just as much about the vehicles as it was the figures, but I always felt the vehicles were secondary. To me, a successful Sky Patrol figure is one that looks more like a soldier in the field but is one that doesn’t look out of place manning a vehicle. Altitude doesn’t really have that quality. It’s still a good figure, it’s just not one I think fits well with the rest of the subteam. I think a better weapon would have helped him, but as it stands, he’s just a little weak and I think that’s mostly because he uses a relatively dated and relatively vehicle-tied driver’s body as his base. The head helps make him his own character, but the overall design is just a little lacking for a Joe commando.