As we approach the highlight of the Winter’s offerings, just a short clip of a few of Bilbao’s delights. This shorthaul destination is a nice example of how any airfield can be turned into a challenging day out by the mere addition of a good blow.
Also a reminder (if ever we needed it ) of how terrain can take wind and do wonderfully creative things with it in your trousers.
I have just had a superb day at Old Warden watching the The Shuttleworth Collection’s last display day of the season. The weather was perfect for the full ensemble, most of the stars of this amazing flying museum raced across the turf with lifted skirts and made it into the air – memorable!
A major objective of the day was to bring together all the members of the team with an interest in Arthur’s story. Piers, Andrew and Rupert (Dent) were all there along with my friend, colleague and co-researcher, Syd Buxton. Syd spent part of the day with Tony Blackman at a book signing wedged into a chair gripping a pen whilst recounting his very interesting past.
When the SE5a returned to earth we were escorted ‘up close and personal’ to shoot take photographs and try a little alchemy. History takes on an immediacy when one of the principal actors comes alive in front of you, being so close to this living, breathing machine dripping hot oil fresh from flight leaves you on something of a high. Syd and I returned to my car parked on the flight line and divided up the photographic and written archive of Arthur’s life. We have now gone our separate ways to pore forensically through the evidence, record, scan and collaborate on-line.
And now to close, a further word about Tracey and her mission to fly across Africa. I will be brief here – she will speak to you far better than I through her website, her short movie and evolving blog. I fly with talented ladies all the time and seldom fail to be impressed by their obvious enthusiasm and dedication – but this aviator is in a class of her own.
I have been fooling around with kites for a while (great upper-body exercise) and when in San Diego (yesterday – still there as I write this), what should one do with a day off?
After a hearty breakfast the fog had cleared across the sound Pete and I (friend and colleague) took a stroll down the waterfront as vendors set up shop for the amusement and the subsequent harvest)of – the tourists. A flock of spectacular parrots and Macaws splashed colour and noise about as they scratched themselves exercising wit and whistling ability. All this to delight of their compatriot henna artists, jugglers and tarot card readers.
The enthusiasm, no – the passion that Tom has for his kite flying is infectious and after a quick ‘Chinese Parliament’ with Pete the three of us marched off to the taxi rank. We took a ride to the kite shop and beyond with our brand new Revolution 1.5 SLEs. We had a fantastic day out in Mission Bay Park (Google Earth link) where I turned pink in the sun – Tom a slightly redder shade of burnt-umber. Pete, had a grin from ear to ear which matched ours - we were kids in a candy store.
If you love to fly and cannot do it enough, try flying kites. The sensitive handling required provides a pleasing feedback that’s not unlike flying. The acquisition of a new skill you can unfold whenever that delicious laminar draft blows is not to be missed. If you have kids you might even become a hero for a few hours.
And if you can’t go fly a kite watch these guys perform – they are amazing!
Tom is at this location most days of the year, please tell him Norman and Pete sent you…
Here is a website – www.tskite.com
I finished Arthur Rhys Davids story a little while back and have had time to reflect on the tale and all within it. And what a story it is; a peculiar character viewed through today’s eyes. Shaped by what looks like a cloistered early life and a rumbustious, demanding schooling at the hands of Eton’s masters, Arthur made it easily through flying training to the Western Front to discover his métier – combat flying. He admits to hating the killing and longing to return to the academic world, his first love. It’s clear he didn’t make friends easily, from the texts this seems to be through choice as he had little time for light banter and the normal run of a fighter pilot’s social activity. He was nearer to Ball in this respect I think, though Ball was no academic.
I admire Arthur for his ability to adapt to his surroundings, his obvious courage and sense of duty. I think he would have made a fascinating guest at a small, well chosen dinner table. What a shame that like so many of his contemporaries, he didn’t make that dinner gong, nor return to the classics, his first and enduring love. He could have said and done so much more… Perhaps we should leave regret behind, Cecil Lewis in the company of notable otherstold their story and left an exquisite record for us all.
Arthur died on October 12th 1917 and has no known grave. He was ‘almost certainly shot down by Leutnant Karl Gallwitz, at the time acting Staffelführer of Jasta Boelke’ (Revell, 2010). He returned to earth within an area later heavily shelled and fought across during the battles for Passchendaele Ridge.
Revell, A (1984) Brief Glory, the life of Arthur Rhys Davids, DSO MC, William Kimber & Co, London.
It has always struck me how our impressions and visualisations of the history of war are coloured by the media that recorded it and the attitudes of those who wrote it. The Great War was, to all intents and purposes, fought in black and white running at 1.25 the speed of reality. What is sometimes difficult to appreciate given the power of this media, is that all wars are fought in Technicolor and full surround-sound with no volume control.
Hot is hot, cold is cold and tortured spinning steel has no respect for rank, title or script – as there isn’t one. To get the full benefit and understand it at a visceral level, you had to be there really, which in our case, looking at the these lives and times is impossible.
I am reading Alex Revell’s brilliantly researched history of 56 Squadron (Revell, 1995) and his story of the short life of Arthur Rhys Davids, the scholastic RFC SE5a ace who flew with ’56′ during 1917. All this as background work for a closer look at Arthur Keen about whom little has been written.
As the book project moves ahead and the research effort starts to ramp up, we have decided to create a sepete place for our reflection on Arthur’s life and times with the RFC. We have established a blog (a Brazil address – don’t ask) to focus our efforts and provide a space for anyone who would like to contribute their thoughts and who knows, the fruits of their knowledge or research.
If you are interested in the early years of aerial conflict and this compelling story, please visit and browse ‘awhile.
I used to smile inwardly when my colleagues said that they started to feel old when the aircraft they flew in previous lives had been taken from service – retired.
As the years slip by time speeds up, we must all be aware of that, even if we haven’t seen it. One of the things this allows you to do as you get more ‘senior’ is look back on the way the fate and opportunity’s cards fell for you, how you played them. What you can’t see of course is how the deck is stacked or where sleight of hand bent your fortune. On our way across our blue planet’s Atlantic Ocean a tale was recounted to me, one perhaps all to familiar to many of the way new entrants are being ‘assisted’ into our ranks. I refer of course to professional aviation and I reflect on my good fortune as I write of this tawdry situation.
Flight training for a professional licence has always been expensive, scrape together the £100k (US $162k) and you are well on your way, the extras, like many things in life and if you are being honest with your calculator, can double that figure as you ride from tyro into the right had seat of a Boeing or an Airbus of any size. How then should we regard those training organizations who ‘facilitate’ the transition from their light twins into the airline system?
I shouldn’t be doing this at all, I should be finishing off my TMA, Tutor Marked Assignment… but I just couldn’t resist a little recreational tapping. I’m at my hotel room desk reflecting on our approach into Newark last night and the way we were dropped down progressively to the north of New York during the intermediate approach.
Every airspace has its management requirements, that’s given, but we are living in a new world where we are told that fuel is getting scarcer and big strides are being made towards a conservation led airspace policy. So why the early descents that leave us thundering along way below the profile hosing unnecessary amounts fuel overboard? Sure, I know there will be an answer, but what about an innovative approach to airspace management that eradicates the wastage of fuel as a priority? After all, isn’t FANS a response driven by that objective? FANS works in the vertical plane, as well as the horizontal – but I guess a massive rethink is on the way… one day perhaps.
The clue to the process lies in the heavy white area around NYC on the graphic above.
“The deployment of FANS-1 was originally justified by improving route choice and thereby reducing fuel burn”. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Future_Air_Navigation_System