Posted by: blogengeezer | November 9, 2011

P-51 Old Aviators, Old Airplanes

Several minutes later we could hear the pilot doing his pre flight run-up. He’d taxied to the end of runway 19, out of sight. All went quiet for several seconds; we raced from the lounge to the second story deck to see if we could catch a glimpse of the P-51 as she started down the runway.. We could not. There we stood, eyes fixed to a spot half way down 19. Then a roar ripped across the field, much louder than before, like a furious hell spawn set loose—something mighty this way was coming. “Listen to that thing!” said the controller. In seconds the Mustang burst into our line of sight. Its tail was already off and it was moving faster than anything I’d ever seen by that point on 19. Two-thirds the way down 19 the Mustang was airborne with her gear going up. The prop tips were supersonic; we clasped our ears as the Mustang climbed hellish fast into the circuit to be eaten up by the dog-day haze.

At about 500 mph and 150 yards from where we stood, she passed with the old American pilot ‘Saluting’. Imagine. A salute! I felt like laughing, I felt like crying, she glistened, she screamed, the building shook, my heart pounded.

Then the old pilot pulled her up and rolled, and rolled, and rolled out of sight into the broken clouds and indelibly into my memory. I’ve never wanted to be an American more than on that day. It was a time when many nations in the world looked to America as their big brother, a steady and even-handed beacon of security who navigated difficult political water with grace and style; not unlike the pilot who’d just flown into my memory. He was proud not arrogant, humble not a braggart, old and honest, projecting an aura of America at its best. ‘That’ America Will return one day, I know it will. Until that time, I’ll just send off this story; call it a reciprocal salute, to the old American pilot who wove a memory for a young Canadian, one that’s lasted a lifetime.

WE ARE:
Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Anyone Who Threatens It
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