These machines nostalgically transport me back to my youth. Back then, the startup and sound of those radial engines enthralled me. Every Sunday, after our afternoon drive, my father would stop at the airport and we’d watch Frontier Airlines depart.
In those days, there wasn’t an airport fence. And an aspiring, pre-school pilot like myself, could freely interact with the flight crew. In fact, it wasn’t unusual to tour the plane and spend some time in the cockpit. Very exciting!
The highlight was standing just past the wingtips of those DC-3s. And watch those big radial engines, whine, chug, belch smoke and fire, and then roar to life. It was sometimes frightening. But always exciting! And I loved it.
Sometimes, we’d examine a WWII plane. He flew in that war. Had a big box of photos from it. But never talked about it, ever.
Later, when hearing an unusual plane approach the airport, I was outside, in a flash, with my binoculars. Then I’d ride my bike there and get a closer look.
To keep me out of his hair, my father would sometimes fire up a Link trainer while he graded papers. These encounters only fueled my imagination. Who would have know back then, that I would eventually pursue an aviation career. And at the last instant go another direction instead.
Decades later, my father and I stood directly in front of both a B-17 and a B-24 during startup. It was awesome! There I was in the midst of the flame, oil smoke, roar, low frequency prop wash, and the tumultuous noise created by all those clacking, whining and growling engine parts. My father climbed aboard and away he went to rekindle memories from his past.
My reaction was different. I found it absolutely surprising that anyone could get all those clacking, whining and growling engine parts to harmoniously, and reliably work together for long. Even when they were new.
And even more amazed that decades ago, a teenager like my father, would climb in such a machine, and fly for a dozen hours hours, in a hostile environment. Then he’d get up the next day and do it again.
Those men and machines were awesome! And I enjoy a nostalgic visit from time to time.