Dave's High Flight Preparations

All this week on "The Early Show", weather anchor and features reporter Dave Price is training in the "Edge of the Earth" series to go up in a U-2 spy plane for what is called "a high flight." Dave will come as close to space as humanly possible without actually entering it.

"It's going to be an remarkable journey," Dave said Tuesday. "I can't tell you how excited I am. This is like a childhood dream, and for a pilot it doesn't get better."

Dave Price: My Trip to the Edge
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Photos: Dave's U-2 Adventure
Photos: Preparing to Soar
To the Edge of the Earth

The U-2 spy plane, also known as the "Dragon Lady," is a unique plane because no other plane flies higher.

Major Luke Lokowich, a U-2 pilot, told Dave, "You're going to be the highest guy on earth on Thursday."

Dave said on the broadcast, "I've loved flying since the first time I went up in the sky when I was 8 years old. I've flown in almost every kind of aircraft -- and now I'm licensed to fly myself. There is nothing like the view from the sky -- and that's what will make this trip so extraordinary."

According to Lokowich, Dave will get to see the actual curvature of the Earth from the U-2's windows.

Dave reported what makes this possible is "a miracle" of modern technology. However, this plane was first designed over half a century ago for photo surveillance during the Cold War. In 1960, Dave said, the U-2 was front and center when CIA pilot Gary Powers was shot down in his U-2 spy plane over the Soviet Union.

And two years later, it was the U-2 that documented the images that precipitated the Cuban Missile Crisis. And even today, Dave said, whether it's in Iraq, Afghanistan or even in the U.S. -- the U-2 still plays a vital role in the U.S. Air Force.

Capt. Sean Piccirilli, an intelligence officer, pointed out film shot after Hurricane Katrina, in which you can actually see an anchor tied to a boat from nearly 10 miles in the sky.

However, the U-2's black-and-white film - shot just like it was in 1955 - is largely considered classified.

In fact, during Dave's visit, Piccirilli told him a red light meant that unclassified people were in the building.

"Who is that?" Dave asked.

Piccirilli responded, "You."

As for the U-2's film, it is analyzed and the data is transmitted to soldiers on the front lines.

Lokowich said, "The U-2, and what it does today in the tactful environment, fulfills the high-altitude needs that can't be filled by anything else right now."

Dave said the U-2 plane is both a classic artifact of American history and a current-day military asset.

"I have been lucky to do a lot of really cool things as a weatherman," Dave said, "I don't know if there is anything cooler than what I'm about to do."

Lokowich said, "It will be literally, and figuratively, be one of the high points of your life."

Dave added on "The Early Show" with his fellow anchors that he "absolutely, positively, hands-down" has the best assignment this week.

During the course of that assignment, Dave will undergo a barrage of tests.

"We all know mental tests I wouldn't pass, and physical tests are going to be a challenge, so basically I'll smile and get through with personality," he said.

But Dave won't be alone on his mission. He'll bring along "The Early Show" viewers. He said the plane is being wired with cameras to give the best look at Earth from near-space.

"You'll feel like you are along in the cockpit on this remarkable right 13 miles in the sky," Dave said. "And I got to tell you, I cannot wait."
But are there any nerves or anxiety?

Dave admitted he did have some reservations about the flight, but added, "You put your faith in the hands of these remarkable pilots. There are no better pilots than the pilots of the U.S. Air force, so you understand that they're briefed, they understand exactly what to do. They're ready for any contingency. And it's more nervous excitement than anything else. And we are all going to have a great time on Thursday and Friday and the rest of this week."