Kishkinda Kanda of Valmiki Ramayana describes Jatayu and Sampaati flying high and getting their wings burned.
Sampaati describes atleast 2 layers of Atmosphere which indicates he must have gone atleast 15 km high from sea level.
Valmiki Ramayana, Kishkinda Kanda, Sarga 61 describes Sampaati and Jatayu flying so high that they could see cities on the surface of earth, separately and singly, in the size of a chariot wheel.
Sampaati describes celestial music to be seen and heard somewhere, and somewhere else tinkling of jewellery, and elsewhere singing of many ladies dressed in red.
They also observed that a forest is positioned just as a patch of pasture on earth.
Also they notice the earth covered with pebble like mountain heights, and interwoven with yarn like rivers which appear like threads.
Himalayas and other high mountains appear like Elephants in lake.
Beyond that height, when they fly further higher, they experience abnormal sweating, tiredness, fear, stupor and vertigo.
They lose sense of directions and at that height, Sun appeared in a size equal to the earth.
Today if one goes up into 2nd atmospheric layer called ‘Stratosphere‘, Sun and Earth appear as 2 giant globes almost equal in size.
Sampaati’s description clearly states that people of that era knew that earth was spherical in shape.
The panoramic view described by Sampaati can be seen from a jumbo jet, which cruises at heights of around 40000 feet.
Troposphere, which starts at earth level and extends upto 10km (~33000 feet), is described first by Sampaati.
Most clouds appear here, mainly because 99% of the water vapor in the atmosphere is found in the troposphere. Air pressure drops, and temperatures get colder, as you climb higher in the troposphere.
Cities appearing like wheels, mountains like pebbles, rivers like threads can be seen when flying at around 30000 feet height.
In the next layer called ‘Stratosphere‘, Sampaati describes that Jataayu suddenly started to trip over the earth, and then on seeing him, Sampaati too let himself loose from the sky.
Sampaati tried to hide Jataayu in sky with both his wings from the scorching Sun, to prevent him from getting burnt, but in this process Sampaati’s wings were completely burnt when falling from the sky.
Stratosphere extends from the top of the troposphere to about 50 km (31 miles) above the ground. The infamous ozone layer is found within the stratosphere. Ozone molecules in this layer absorb high-energy ultraviolet (UV) light from the Sun, converting the UV energy into heat. Unlike the troposphere, the stratosphere actually gets warmer the higher you go.
Trend of rising temperatures with altitude means that air in the stratosphere lacks the turbulence and updrafts of the troposphere beneath. Commercial passenger jets fly in the lower stratosphere, partly because this less-turbulent layer provides a smoother ride.
This is where Jatayu and Sampaati got hit by severe heat of Sun and collapsed onto earth.
As they fell from around 15km height (~50000 feet), Jatayu fell in Janasthana (near panchavati) and Sampaati fell further south of Kishkinda (near sea).
Jatayu and Sampaati must have used a flying machine, whose wings were burnt in stratosphere due to heat and UV rays.
Jatayu’s machine wings got saved but he lost control due to scorching heat and vertigo and fell at Janasthana. He fought with Ravana in air for sometime but died on the way as his machine wings and his own limbs were chopped off.
Sampaati narrates that he was unconscious for 6 days after falling on earth and then met sage Nishakara who later departed to heaven.
That sage nishakara asks Sampaati to stay there until vanaras sent by Rama come in search of Seetha, who was kidnapped by Ravana and pass on the information about Lanka.
While revealing to Vanaras about location of Seetha, Sampaati repairs his flying machine wings and this is described by Valmiki as ‘acquiring new wings’.
लंकायाम् अथ गुप्तायाम् सागरेण समंततः |
संप्राप्य सागरस्य अंतम् संपूर्णम् शत योजनम् || ४-५८-२४
आसाद्य दक्षिणम् तीरम् ततो द्रक्ष्यथ रावणम् |
तत्र एव त्वरिताः क्षिप्रम् विक्रमध्वम् प्लवंगमाः || ४-५८-२५
Translation : Now, oh, fly-jumpers, first get to the other shore of the island in southern ocean, which ocean spans in an overalled width of hundred yojana-s from this side of seashore, then landing on the other seashore you can see Lanka secluded all around by ocean, and in such a water-walled Lanka you can see Ravana… hence, hurry up, and promptly triumph over Lanka. [Ramayana 4-58-24, 25]
ज्ञानेन खलु पश्यामि दृष्ट्वा प्रत्यागमिष्यथ |
आद्यः पंथाः कुलिंगानाम् ये च अन्ये धान्य जीविनः || ४-५८-२६
द्वितीयो बलि भोजानाम् ये च वृक्ष फल अशिनः |
भासाः तृतीयम् गच्छन्ति क्रौन्चाः च कुररैः सह || ४-५८-२७
श्येनाः चतुर्थम् गच्छन्ति गृध्रा गच्छन्ति पंचमम् |
Translation : I foresee by my prognosis that your sighting Seetha is definite at that place, and definite is your return from there. The first flight level of birds is that of the small Kulinga birds, house sparrows, songbirds and the like subsisting on food-grains. The second flight level is that of the birds that are the eaters of leftovers like crows and doves, or the eaters of tree-fruits like parrots. The third flight level is that of the wading birds like Bhaasa, Kraunca, Kurara birds and cranes, herons and the like. The fourth flight level is that of hawks and the fifth is that of the vultures. [4-58-26, 27, 28a]
बल वीर्य उपपन्नानाम् रूप यौवन शालिनाम् || ४-५८-२८
षष्ठः तु पन्था हंसानाम् वैनतेय गतिः परा |
वैनतेयात् च नः जन्म सर्वेषाम् वानरर्षभाः || ४-५८-२९
Translation : And the sixth flight level is that of the swans which derive their valour, vigour, handsomeness and youthfulness by their majestic birth. But the uppermost path is that of the sons of Lady Vinata, namely the Divine Eagle Garuda, and Anuuru, the non-stopping charioteer of Sun. Because we eagles have our lineal descent from the Divine Eagle, we can soar to the uppermost flyable path and see keenly. [4-58-28b, 29]
जानामि वारुणान् लोकान् विष्णोः त्रैविक्रमान् अपि |
देव असुर विमर्दाम् च हि अमृतस्य च मंथनम् || ४-५८-१३
Translation : I have seen the netherworlds of Rain-god viz., earth and its substrata like atala. vitala, sutala, paataala terrains… and I have even seen those empyrean worlds that were triply trodden by Vishnu, and the intermediary regions of upper and lower worlds where gods and demons combated ghastlily, and because I am that aged I have also seen the unseeable Milky Ocean when it was churned for ambrosia.
Jatayu and Sampaati adapted in Greek Mythology as Icarus and Daedalus
In Greek Mythology, just as they adapted corrupted form of Ramayana as iliad, they adapted this story as father and son Daedalus and Icarus, who tried to escape from an island by flying into the sky. Icarus neglects his father’s warning and eventually falls into the sea after his wings melt due to heat of sun.
Inspired from Vishnu and Garuda, Toruk-Makto and Toruk characters were created in Avatar movie.