For those that follow 'The Pilot's Blog', thank you. ‘A Passion for Flight’ met with a wonderful response this last week, if you missed the first instalment you can read it HERE. There are many more posts ahead, so thank you for joining me on this journey....
Despite that first fall and a good many others, I continued to seek to defy gravity and inch closer to the sky above.
My childhood home was small and simple. Beside our shed stood an old greying wooden paling fence. Its five foot tall vertical planks were attached to a pair of long cross-members which offered a marginal foothold and the promise of access to the top of our water tank. From there a simple step would edge me even higher onto the top of the shed and the ultimate goal of its peak. Once there I could straddle the ridge cap and see for miles upon miles as these were the days before skyscrapers and even two-storey homes were few and far between.
I would sit there for hours as aircraft after aircraft would pass overhead on their way to the local airport. With the help of binoculars I could clearly read the markings under their wings and follow them all the way until they entered the traffic pattern and began their final descent. And occasionally things were a little more exciting.
In 1973, Queen Elizabeth II visited Sydney to officially open the world famous Opera House. As I watched the ceremony on our tiny black and white television set, an impending flypast of nine of the Royal Australian Air Force’s new F-111 jets was announced. I scrambled out the screen door, up the paling fence, over the water tank and onto the roof.....just in time. The nine darts sped over the distant harbour with the sound of their screaming engines in tow some miles behind. They came and went in a flash and dragged my breath into their slipstream.
I waited for their return but a second pass was not forthcoming. I lay back on the roof and stared skywards as the parade of piston engines resumed overhead; over my house, onto the airport and down to earth. Undoubtedly some were returning from their own harbour flights, but at a far leisurely pace than the camouflaged jets with their wings swept back. For me, the sight of propellers, wings and things overhead was the best show in town. And the price was right too.
I spent many hours on that rooftop. Now, ‘Google Earth’ tells me that the shed is long gone and the paling fence has been replaced by pre-formed metal wall. Even so, the memories of those hours scanning skyward are vivid in my mind. They were the launching pad that inspired my imagination. I could project my mind into those cockpits and imagine looking down on a small boy lying on a suburban rooftop.
It was not long until the dream became tangible. And for fuelling that passion for flight I have one man to thank....
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