Sunday, May 17, 2015


We live in Virginia Beach amid bumper stickers that say, “I (heart) Jet Noise.” Of course we do! Our family, friends and neighbors work in this center of the Navy’s carrier fleet. We are treated to the roar and whistle of F-18s, E-2s and Navy general aviation daily, and though the noise can interfere with a phone call or a conversation, we still “heart” it.

Today, though, another treat. Just south of our house a few miles, there was an air show featuring WWII aircraft. Not the roar of a GE or Rolls Royce turbine but the deep RUMBLE of a very old, treasured and pampered radial engine from a B-24 or a B-17 or, not likely, a B-29. The James Earl Jones of aircraft power. An educated old-timer (not me) could identify the engine/aircraft by sound, but about all I can differentiate is the difference between one of the “big-uns” and the distinctive, sexy Merlin V-12 in the P-51 Mustang.

The sound takes me back to childhood, classic Ford pickups that we didn’t know were destined for fame, the ’57 Chevy that most of us knew was going to be a classic the first time we saw it in 799 Tropical Turquoise, Formica, “modern” furniture and appliances in colors like harvest gold. Mid-century in central Nebraska which then, as now, is close to the paths that flights take from Chicago to western destinations like Denver, San Francisco and Los Angeles. My brother and I would listen, then see the magnificent “Connies” (Lockheed Constellations) and marvel at the romance of air travel. When air travel was society at its highest level, luxury and opulence abounded. Now, you get on one and fully expect one of the passengers to arrive with a crate of chickens and a goat.  

Then we would go back to milking cows or other not-so-romantic endeavors.

My friend Jerry said just today how we can’t remember what we had for lunch yesterday, but we can remember a conversation from a half-century gone by. Or the magnificent RUMBLE of a big radial, and recognize that then, just as now, the United States holds mastery of the skies.

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