Review & pics by: Fred Meyer

Sky Patrol Recon Scout - Code name: Altitude

  Review & pics by Fred Meyer


The GIJoe team has always been one of the most diverse groups in any toy line that I’ve encountered. While the majority of its members were male Caucasians, no other series could boast a cast that included Samoans, British citizens, African Americans, Asian Americans, strong female characters, and even a great number of Native Americans. Distinctive characters like Spirit and the original Airborne gave children positive examples of the earliest settlers of the North American continent. The original Joe tracker and helicopter assault trooper have remained fan favorites over the years and have served as great fictional representatives of their respective tribal nations. However, there is another Native American from the Real American Hero era that many fans might not be aware of. The son of a famous Hollywood stuntman and a gifted artist, Sky Patrol’s Altitude is another great example of an American Indian on the GIJoe team.

Altitude frontAltitude back

Unlike Skydive, Static Line, and even Drop Zone, Altitude reuses the body of a well-know GIJoe pilot—Slipstream. Following the trend used in creating the other Sky Patrol figures, Hasbro combined a dramatically repainted body with a new head to create an entirely new character. At first glance, you can tell that Altitude is somehow connected to aviation—his uniform has a decidedly “flight suit” quality to it. Altitude’s uniform appears to be based on a green flight suit with rust colored sleeves and boots. As with the Strato-Vipers (and by default Drop Zone), his uniform features some extraordinarily high leggings that have ties on the sides and that end in a pair of dark colored boots. His torso is covered by a gold harness of sorts that features silver detailing. Each forearm features a small brown clasp pouch and a golden pistol is molded into a brown holster on his right thigh. One puzzling aspect of Altitude's color scheme is found in his rust-colored sleeves. As I’ve previously stated, his uniform seems to be based around a green flight suit over the top of which the colored leggings are worn. However, the rust-colored sleeves emerge from under the short green sleeve which means that he’s actually wearing three layers of clothing instead of two. This is an extremely minor detail but one that caught my eye when I was examining the figure for the first time. The source figure of Slipstream simply had brown shoulder pads on top of a beige flight suit which gave the uniform a more cohesive appearance. Unfortunately this aspect was lost on poor Altitude when the body was repainted.

Altitude closeup

Whereas most of the head sculpts used for Sky Patrol conveys the impression of older soldiers Altitude has a decidedly younger appearance. His features are softer and more rounded and his expression is much less severe than Drop Zone, Airborne, or Skydive. Of all of the members of the team, his expression is the most neutral—showing neither serious gaze nor the faintest hint of a smirk. It’s not a blank expression but one that could almost be considered serene. I’m left with the impression that Altitude is the “rock” of the group—the team member that never loses his cool and that nothing ever fazes, no matter how dire the circumstance. He seems like the practical member of the team—the one who balances out the temperaments of the rest of the unit. His file card describes him as a “photographic memory and a talent for drawing” and his face conveys the focused intelligence that someone possessing these qualities must have. Altitude must also use the same barber as Static Line as he’s the only other member of the team to possess a flat-top haircut. (I’m thinking the barber likes him better as his cut isn’t nearly as exaggerated.)

Altitude gear

I’ve given up on trying to figure out what the intentions were of the design team when it came to arming the Sky Patrol members. Static Line has the “UFO of Death”, Drop Zone is packing the “portable turret” and I just don’t have the words to describe the weapon that Altitude was saddled with. In all honesty, it resembles nothing so much as the love child of the Rocketeer’s jetpack and Judge Dredd’s “Lawgiver” pistol. It’s the kind of weapon that you might see BA improvise when the A-Team is locked in the back room of a combination power tool/fireworks warehouse. The weapon appears to be an enormous pistol to which was welded an arm shield and a stubby 1950’s rocket. I’m not certain how Altitude would even use such a weapon and I sure don’t see it as a practical choice for a figure who is supposed to be a recon scout. Trust me, chuck this thing into the parts drawer to never see the light of day again and hook him up with ANYTHING else you’ve got lying around. My Altitude is going to be packing a Marauder Inc MP5 but I can see any other SMG working just as well. The requisite parachute pack and helmet round out his gear.

Altitude's weapon

Okay—the moment of truth has arrived. Yes, I recommend Altitude as a figure purchase and not just because he’s a member of the Sky Patrol that I seem to have become so fascinated with. Altitude has a great head sculpt which fits quite well with the choice of the Slipstream body. His colors, like the rest of Sky Patrol, are a bit odd for field work but they come together quite well when used on this mold. Aside from a weapon that will baffle scholars and theologians for decades to come, he’s a solid figure with some solid gear. He’s also got a fantastic back story on his file card which adds even more depth to the character. Of the six members of the team, he’s one of my favorites and is a figure that will see a position of prominence in my collection. So, if you’re looking for some “new RAH blood” to add to your vintage collection, snag an Altitude figure (along with the rest of Sky Patrol)! He’s one of the “lesser known” RAH gems that I feel every serious Joe collector should own.

Comparison of Altitude and Slipstream

Altitude's helmet

Sky Patrol patch

Altitude sketching the map

Bringing home the blueshirt

Altitude in the field

Sky Patrol group photo



Copyright 2003