Sunday, July 31, 2011

Air Show!

The missus and I recently attended something new,an import from England. 'Flying Proms': 'a symphonic airshow', like they do at Duxford or Shuttleworth(?), with music playing while vintage aircraft do fly-bys. It was program music, themes from films:"Battle of Britain", "The Blue Max", "Out of Africa", "The English Patient", and "Victory at Sea".The aircraft were the stars of the show, types I never expected to see flying.

I grew up in the flight path of NAS S.Weymouth. When we first moved to Weymouth, blimps droned overhead, headed out on patrol for Russian subs lurking off the coast.There were air shows featuring the Blue Angels, the Navy precision flying team. Days before the show, they came honking in,low and fast,causing the best house trained dogs to have an accident. RR and his pals would walk to the base on Saturday for the air show. I do not remember if it was these shows which started my lifelong enthusiasm for aviation, or the time my father said to me "Hear that?That's a B-29", pointing to a silver glint waaay up there. I later learned they were 'weather monitoring' flights.Dad, having served in the AAF and flown The Hump, knew B-29s when he heard them. Or was it the time I talked with Eddie Rickenbacker on a radio talk show? No matter. Hooked, poor sap, looking up at the most mundane aircraft, and getting really excited when something interesting passes overhead.

Interesting aircraft flew at the proms. First,a Supermarine Spitfire Mk. IX, elegant lethality, flew. Magnificent. A pair of Fokker Dr.1's, full sized reproductions of the overrated German WWI fighter, still striking and able to turn on a floating dime, did their stuff next. One of the loveliest designs to fly, a DeHaviland DH89 Dragon Rapide, made her stately progress above our heads after the Fokkers. Spats on the undercarriage make her even more attractive. A Stearman Trainer, the 'Yellow Peril', flew next.She was followed by another jewel, a Hawker Hurricane. The last aircraft was an F4U Corsair: big, blue, and powerful. We were seated about 50-80 yards from their flightpath, and the power of that big radial could be felt from where we were sitting. She was not more than 40' off the deck. Glorious.

The reason we were able to see these aircraft fly was the venue. The Military Aviation Museum is a nest of aircraft restorers. They acquire these machines, fix 'em up, and fly most of them. Swell: remember, these are old and rare machines. One prang and they are scrap. I read of a Me109G6 flown in England, even after the Germans cautioned them about flying her too much.The DB605 engine in Messerschmitts, along with the Rolls Royce Merlins in Spitfires, were hand built precision machines. Machinists today, even with CAM, are not able to get the close tolerances necessary for these high performance engines.Guess what happened. The 109 was pranged, lightly; enough to tear up the the engine. This summer, two aircraft of the Commemorative Air Force here in the states crashed, two more off the roster of flying pieces of history.

Even so, if I hear of an airshow nearby, and the weather is good, I will pack up the sunscreen and the missus (a good trooper, she has crawled through a B-17 with me), and be there. See you near the flightline.