Altitude Record for Britain
Monday 29th September 1936
The 1930s saw intense competition between nations and manufacturers to set new records for aircraft. Britain set a new world altitude record in a specially designed and built aircraft, the Bristol 138 powered by a super-charged Pegasus engine, flown by Squadron-Leader Ronald Swain of the Royal Aeronautical Establishment. He wore pressure suit reminiscent of early science fiction images of a space suit.
The record was homologated by the Federation Internationale de l’Aeronautique at 49,967ft (15,230 meters). It was a considerable achievement, but of little practical value as even military propeller aircraft rarely operated above 12,000 meters. By contrast the fighter aircraft of World War Two operated at very close to the records set before the war.