I was reading through one of my friend Rob Mark’s fine posts this morning when I came across a few lines that tripped a memory
Flying in the Old Days: ” Flying TWA goes way back in my memory banks because the old Boeing 707 you’ll see here was the first airliner I flew on at the ripe old age of nine.
Those Boeings may have been environmentally unfriendly by today’s standards, but boy oh boy, when a 707 took off heavy, the rumble made the dirt those old Pratts spewed out almost worth it.”
‘Killing time on the island of Malta inside the Luqa airfield boundary close to the runway threshold. The sun was blazing down from a hazy azure sky. It was was a hot summers weekday afternoon in 1973.
I looked up, squeaking and squealing its way around the taxiway (the brakes were pretty noisy) about a hundred yards away with four Pratt & Whitney double Wasps rumbling just above idle, came a rather tired DC6; white with a red stripe down the fuselage as I recall.
She was one of a number that plied Europe and the Mediterranean carrying fresh vegetables and anything else they could pick up to keep what must have been a threadbare operation running. Seeing her make her way towards the holding point was not an unusual sight, but though she had clearly seen better days, I couldn’t keep my eyes off her.
She squeaked and groaned to a halt just clear of the runway and the crew ran through their checks, their heads visible bobbing around behind the plexiglass. The captain caught a glimpse of me watching and chucked a quick wave in my direction before releasing the brakes. She moved forward towards the runway four sets of Hamilton Standards beating a wash of dusty slipstream and crackling exhaust across me as she turned away, lining up for departure.
Then after finding the centerline she rolled, the power rising relentlessly, then after a pause at around eighty percent – all four on song hit full power. The cacophony of sound was incredible setting off a deep resonance in my chest cavity. It brought tears to my eyes as four times two and a half thousand horsepowers rolled into the shimmering haze, there was a chunk of raw emotion there but mostly it was just reaction to the stupendous, magnificent racket.
After a sluggish initial acceleration she lifted her skirts began to run, disappearing momentarily into a mirage generated by the reflected heat from the runway. Atmospherics were defeated by reality – she reappeared just after unstick climbing away, the music dying slowly to a throaty murmur.
Silence returned as she slipped from the scene. What a ragged but enduring beauty; I remember wishing that I was going with them feeling slightly desolate at being left behind.
Jet noise may be the sound of freedom, but for me the piston’s roar will always be the sound of pure adventure.