Lawson writes . . . sharing thoughts and memories

June 24, 2010

Airplanes

Filed under: Uncategorized — lawsonjolly @ 5:00 am

From early childhood, I had a fascination with airplanes.  They were not all that common flying over where I grew up.  But when a plane did fly over, it got my attention.  The flying altitude in those days was low compared to the ability of planes today.

One present I would always receive at Christmas was a model airplane.  It would take hours and days to build it.  They were not of plastic, or the snap-in pieces.  These were of balsa wood that had to be carefully cut out, glued together, and covered with a special paper.  I sought to collect and build as many different types as possible.  I would not play with them for fear I would cause damage.  They were a trophy to be displayed!

During World War II, I considered myself an “official” plane spotter!  On the wall of my hut, I had a chart of all the U.S. planes.  Everytime I would hear the sound of a plane, I would take my hand telescope and try to identify the plane.  It was not difficult because the altitude of these planes made it possible.  I also had a chart for German planes.  I really looked hard for these.  It was not an impossibility that a German plane could make it inland as far as our house.  (See my blog entitled My Family and World War II, www.lawsonjolly.com/2010/03/29.)

During the war years, a Navy trainer crashed near our home.  It was so exciting.  There was no injury, but the plane was severely damaged.  It was roped off to prevent people, especially me, I think, from climbing all over the plane.  Those guarding the plane were kind.  They allowed me to come close, and they even let me pull out a few pieces of the plane and take home.  Boy, did I make like an aviator with those scraps!

My first flight was as a 21 year old.  It was necessary for a fast trip to Texas and my parents provided the cost of the ticket.  It was a DC-3.  The roar of the engines, the thrill of the take-off, and then the sights from the air!  I knew why I loved planes so much.  Flying at a low altitude, I can well remember the Mississippi River and all the meandering of that great river.  I had never been aware of so many turns the river made until I viewed it from the air.  It was a bumpy ride, but a thrilling ride to one who wanted to fly so badly.

A few months following that first flight, I sought to enlist in the NAVCAD program.  This was the Naval Aviation Cadet program.  About 75 individuals were chosen each year to participate in this flight training and then commissioned.  The thought of taking off from an aircraft carrier and landing on that deck was a mental excitement that I can still recapture today.  I spent several days in all the testing.  It seemed that it was going well, and I felt good about my competition.  However, the last day required interviews, even with a psychiatrist.  In this in depth conversation, I was asked if there had been any major decisions in my life recently, other than the desire to be a Navy pilot.  In excitement I told him that about 2 months ago I surrendered my life to the ministry.  That did it!  Some said I should have kept quiet, but when God puts something so exciting in your heart as  preaching His gospel, you can’t be quiet!  The end of the story was that I was not accepted.  I understood.  The Navy would not choose to invest so much in a person who they would assume did not plan to make the military a career.

Years later, I had the privilege to be on a SAC base (Strategic Air Command).  There were six B-52s.  At that time in our history, a B-52 Stratofortress was American’s first long-range bomber.  Though upgraded, the B-52 has been operational longer than any other bomber in U.S. history.  These remarkable planes could fly at such a high altitude that no fighter plane could reach them and return.  A certain number of these planes were always in the air for security reasons.  They also carried more fire power than was exploded in WW II.

I remember riding in a jeep to where the planes were sitting.  They were guarded by military and by attack dogs.  They were unbelievable in size.  I saw a plane that was 157 feet long with a 185 foot wing span.  It was remarkable to a young man who so loved planes from his childhood.  Then we distanced ourselves so that we could observe one taking off.  The sound was deafening and the jeep even shook from the turbulence created on the ground by those gigantic engines!  Would I have liked to be aboard that aircraft?  You can be sure the answer is yes!

My fascination with planes is a little more subtle today.  Yet I still look up when I hear a plane overhead.  There has been a lot of flying in my life, and I have shared some of it with you.  If you have missed earlier blogs read,  Flying By the Seat of Your Pants, www.lawsonjolly.com/2010/01/11 Emergency Landing, www.lawsonjolly.com/2010/03/30; and  Running With the Big Dogs, www.lawsonjolly.com/2010/06/01.

To soar off into the wild blue yonder is thrilling.  Yet, today I know something of soaring like an eagle.  (See blog,  Eagles, www.lawsonjolly.com/2010/01/21.  A choice between flying from the deck of a ship or flying like an eagle?  I will take flying like an eagle any day!  That is the power of living!

Lawson

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