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My Bucket Runneth Over

       

When I was young, Dad introduced me to the concept of the bucket list.  This was shortly after one of our first SCUBA dives together, exploring a submerged mountain, watching a cuttlefish changing color in front of us like a rotund neon starship.  I remember the salt taste in my mouth, the ache in my nose from the awkwardly-fitted children’s dive mask as I told Dad that this was the closest we’d ever get to being astronauts.

I didn’t see the look on his face, absorbed as I was by the waves lapping against our banca.  I talked about how it was zero gravity, strange alien creatures, life support equipment.  Adventure.

     

SEAL Team Sicks

      

I would later find out that Dad was checking “astronaut” off his bucket list, that list of things one must do before one dies.  This year, he checked off “Fly a Spitfire,” and that’s our previous story.

  

  

  

     

When I was a kid, all I ever wanted to do was to be a pilot.  My first movie was either Star Wars or Top Gun, which explains a lot.  Mom complained on a trip to Disneyland that the only toys I ever asked for were airplanes.  The first item on my bucket list was there from the start.

I became more sensible, of course.  I grew up.  Learned to be responsible.  The school newspaper.  The honors section.  Dad and I built model airplanes.  I decided I wanted to be a teacher.  Not a legend, like my mentor, Dr. Onofre Pagsanghan (Mr Pagsi to his students).  Just a teacher.  A good one, someday.  Maybe.

I was as surprised as anyone when I lifted off the runway in 2006, in a genuine, bona fide airplane (I had learned to pronounce “Cessna” correctly at the age of three).  I laughed out loud and swatted at the empty air beside me where my instructor should have been.  Solo flight.

It took me two circuits to realize why the plane was pulling to the left.

    

Carlo in 1049 Sep 16, 2006

    

There is a very specific feeling, somewhere between disbelief, joy, and satisfaction, when you do something that was on your list.  This is one pleasure that young people don’t realize they have –- to feel something new for the first time.  The first time you influence someone’s life in a big way.  The first heady rush of sexual attraction, at once so natural and unfamiliar.  And of course, the first time you cross something off your bucket list.  You need to savor that feeling, memorize it.  Because here’s a secret:  you will sometimes feel this feeling at the most unexpected times.

     

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I thought I would be as old as Mr Pagsi by the time anyone thought to call me legendary.  When Celadon awarded me their Legendary Teacher award at the age of 27, I felt it again.  I didn’t particularly feel that I deserved it.  But I felt that rush of joy.  Another item off my list.  One that I had stopped taking seriously some time before.

  

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Sometimes, life tells you in subtle ways that you are doing something you were meant to do.  Sometimes, you won’t realize that something was on your bucket list until life gives it to you.

I teach the Ateneo de Manila University’s Introduction to Ateneo Culture and Traditions class, which helps incoming freshmen adjust to college life.  Sort of like a cut-rate guidance counsellor.  I was expecting a bit of good fun, a little extra cash, a chance to brag about my being a fourth-generation Atenean.

What I got instead was a young woman who burst into tears during what should have been a routine consultation.  Her Dad had a stroke.  A student begged for advice on what to tell her cousins, whose mother was dying of cancer.  In my first year of teaching, in a very conservative Catholic high school, someone snuck a message into an essay.  Sir Rivera, I’m gay.  What do I do?  A young woman, eyes no longer quite so young, talked about her baby boy.

There’s something of a formula for these situations.  You listen without judging. You use all your art to convince them that they’re not evil or worthless.  You name-drop a guidance counsellor.  Then you say farewell, and give them a hug if you’re young and foolish enough, and that’s where the formula breaks down, because nothing in a teacher’s preparations prepares you for the feeling that comes next.  I wanted to tell these kids-not-kids that they would be alright.  I wanted to do more for them.  I felt an urge to prove to them that the world is a good place.  I felt…

Parental.

    

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Sometimes, life gives you something that you never realized you were meant to do.  Sometimes something you’d cast aside as a silly dream.  Sometimes something you’d never really considered.  So that’s why it’s important to check things off your bucket list.  Not just for the experience itself.  But so that you learn to recognize that feeling, to understand that at this moment, life is giving you something Important.

My suspension of disbelief has been broken since about 2006.  Nothing seems impossible anymore.  My cup runneth over.

And for the record, “astronaut” is still on my list.

     

 

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Posted from Manila

January 7, 2015

  

Thank you to Johans Lucena for Carlo’s photo at Reach for the Sky 2

http://johanslucena.weebly.com/canon-a-team-reach-for-the-sky-2.html

  

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Berlin Express

  

Carlo has a excellent article on Bucket lists.  He was ready for a New Year’s Day publication.  I’ve held it up because I wanted to find the perfect photos for the article.  Soon, I promise, Carl – this week.

To pass the time, here’s a quick, very short story.

  

 

It’s January 3, 2015.  Carlo and I have just logged 4.5 flying hours.  We have been flying a wonderful group of aviation and flight simulator enthusiasts – former student pilots, current student pilots, future student pilots, R/C flyers, scale model builders, photographers, Facebook friends, fathers and sons.  Carlo and I are just using up fuel now, enjoying quiet time together in the sunset sky over Woodland Airpark.  We are happy-tired. 

     

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The hat I am wearing has been with me for 10 years.  I got it at the 2005 Hiller airshow at San Carlos airport in California.  

I lost that hat four days ago.  I misplaced it after flying with an old friend last December 30.  We are both Presidents of the only two flying clubs in the country. 

  

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The hat recalls a P-51C Mustang fighter airplane named "Berlin Express" flown by Bill Overstreet, an American World War II pilot.  Overstreet was a squadron mate of Chuck Yeager, who broke the sound barrier as a test pilot after the war.  Overstreet named his airplane "Berlin Express"  because his 357th Fighter Group regularly flew to Berlin as fighter escort for B-17 bomber missions, deep into wartime Germany.

     

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Overstreet flew in a dogfight over France in early 1944 against a Messerschmitt Bf-109.  The German pilot flew directly over occupied Paris so that the German gun batteries could shoot Overstreet’s Mustang off the Messerschmitt’s tail. 

His engine already hit and damaged, the German flew under the Eiffel tower in a desperate attempt to evade Overstreet.  Overstreet followed under the Eiffel tower, kept firing, and won the duel. 

     

"The Berlin Express Arrives in Paris"

  

Exactly a year ago, on January 3, 2014, Bill Overstreet, the pilot of Berlin Express, passed away.  He was 92 years old. 

Today, January 3, 2015, another pilot found and returned my ‘Berlin Express’ hat to me.

  

I should stop losing things.

  

   

Posted from Manila

03 January, 2015

 

William Overstreet’s obituaries:

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2533373/WWII-fighter-pilot-flew-THROUGH-Eiffel-Tower-dies-Virginia-aged-92.html

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/obituaries/captain-william-overstreet-pilot-who-claimed-to-have-chased-a-german-fighter-plane-under-the-base-archof-the-eiffel-tower-in-1944-9086555.html

 

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On Christmas Day 45 years ago, Santa left my presents at my Grandfather’s house in Manila.  My Dad watched with sparkling interest as I unwrapped my first airplane scale models, a Spitfire and a Messerschmitt.  I was 12 years old.

We had no colour TV, DVDs, internet, or computer games.  No computers, even.  The model airplanes filled my world.

     

Revell H611 Spirnarr

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It took me 45 years to fully unwrap that gift. 

   

   

    

  

My Dad’s delicious stories of World War II dogfights kindled my childhood interest in airplanes.  My son Carlo, of the TOP GUN generation, had his imagination fired up by his own Dad’s airplane stories.  Now we were in this amazing adventure together.

Our airplanes taxied line astern, canopies open, weaving side-to-side.

           

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We held short of the runway with three Cessnas.  Ardmore Tower re-sequenced all of us.  Carlo and I would take off together.  Just like the movies.  

   

  

Airborne and in formation, it was Christmas, Fathers Day and birthdays all in one.  We took photos of each other laughing out loud, tears in our eyes.  That unmistakable elliptical wing bridged us, less than one wingspan apart.

  

Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of Earth
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;

      

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Everything was perfect.  Blazing blue sky, creamy clouds edged in white gold sunlight.  Ecstatic pilots vaulting skyward in classic warbirds, streaming contrails of laughter.  Father and son.

  

Sunward I’ve climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
of sun-split clouds, — and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of…

         

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High in the sunlit silence. Hov’ring there… 
I flung my craft through footless halls of air….

 

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I slipped below Carlo, echelon left.  The sun slashed our canopies.  Overhead, towering cumulus raced us to altitude.

 

Up, up the long, delirious, burning blue
I’ve topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace.
Where never lark, or even eagle flew —

  

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We rolled in tight formation.  Our hearts filled to bursting.  Our faces ached from grinning like schoolboys.

  

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We were having way too much fun.  Suddenly we were over England, and it was the summer of 1940.  Bandits, break right!

  

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In the video you can hear Carlo whooping into a barrel roll.  No stiff upper lip now.  “Whoo-hoo!”  Then a loop, aileron roll and steep wingovers left and right.

  

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Mickey Mouse stretched his arms.  Time stilled.

    

Miles away, Gavin and I pulled hard Gs.  Loop, barrel roll, aileron roll, a full Cuban Eight.  We were doing 300 miles per hour, 4,000 feet per minute in vertical up-lines.  Remember, this is a 72-year old airframe that survived 89 combat missions in World War II.  

We levelled out, snarling low over the Firth of Thames, rocketing past the North Island coast.  I jinked away from flakJust like the Spitfire model in my childhood bedroom.

Then we spotted the Harvard, the Hun in the sun!  Hard climb to his 5 o’clock, bit of left rudder, and a bit of Robert Shaw in the movie ‘Battle of Britain’…

“Tak-a-tak-a-tak-a-tak-a-tak!”

  

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We snapped into a vertical bank, our wings straight up and down as Carlo and JK spiralled low, dropping far below us.  “You can run, kid, but you can’t hide.” 

We took these last two photos of each other at almost exactly the same time.

  

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It was time to return to base, ‘pancake’ in RAF slang.  In less than an hour we had flown almost 80 nautical miles. 

As a final treat we shut down at the NZ Warbirds Association ramp. 

        

I thought of Santa and my Dad, who started it all.  As the memories streamed past, a fellow from NZ Warbirds took my photo.

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A very Happy Christmas to all our readers,

Make a bucketful of dreams come true in the New Year!  

  

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Posted from Manila, Philippines

December 24, 2014

     

     

Warbird Adventure Rides

http://www.warbird.co.nz/index.htm

   

New Zealand Warbirds Association

http://nzwarbirds.org.nz/

  

Lines from High Flight by John Gillespie Magee, Jr

Spitfire pilot, killed in December 1941 at the age of 19

    

Twenty Five Years of Top Gunning

https://tonetcarlo.wordpress.com/2011/06/03/twenty-five-years-of-top-gunning/

   

My Dad and his Delicious Airplane Tales

https://tonetcarlo.wordpress.com/2007/04/05/my-dad-and-his-delicious-airplane-tales/

 

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Already, I Didn’t Want the Day to End

I didn’t look up the Spitfire school website.  I could never afford it.  For two years I just watched the video of Alex James flying the Spitfire.  Here’s a rock star who once lolled in champagne with groupies in a hotel.  And was awed to tears by a World War II fighter airplane, “The prettiest girl at the ball.”  Lucky man. 

Fly a Spitfire, pfft.  It would never happen to me.

   

        

  

  

Carlo and I found Ardmore Airport at 10am.  The Spitfire flight was scheduled for 12 noon.  Already, I didn’t want the day to end.

Ardmore is just south of Auckland, in the beautiful North Island countryside of New Zealand.  Carlo and I wandered around the ramps.  Pilots fueled Cessna 162s at the Auckland Flying Club.  Instructors hovered Schweizer helicopters over grass.  A privately-owned Strikemaster attack jet ripped around the circuit.

             

My son Carlo, who used to watch TOP GUN every day at 1 year old, still watching airplanes

             

We watched two hangars in particular.  They harboured a matched pair of North American T-6 ‘Harvards’.

   

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A pilot pushed one Harvard out.  This must be Carlo’s airplane.  Warbird Adventure Rides had offered us a Spitfire and a Harvard to fly in formation.  Carlo and I meant to toss a coin for the Spitfire.  But I had made an executive decision sans currency.  Carlo, the English Professor, agreed to become a Harvard alumnus.

         

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We hurried over.  John “JK” Kelly, with 900 hours in Harvards, introduced us to the airplane.  The Royal New Zealand Air Force once had 200 of these training airplanes.  Ours, used for gunnery training, had a .303 machine gun in the starboard wing.  That Pratt & Whitney R-1340 gulped seven litres of gas per minute.  That’s seven times what our Cessna sips.  Nomnomnom!

  

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Carlo, in his Burberry, looked the RAF ace back from leave in Blighty, keen to get his ticket re-upped in a dicky op.

Other smiling pilots arrived.  Liz Needham, CEO of Warbird Adventure Rides, is a B767 airline pilot.  She has 20,000 hours in 37 years in aviation.  She is #2 in the Harvard “Roaring 40s” flying display team and also flies the P-40E Kittyhawk.

I checked my camera batteries yet again.  Then JK called out to me from the porch.  She was here.

   

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The prettiest girl at the ball.

I could only gawk.  I took several photos.  I wish I took hundreds.  I should have walked around, propped my camera on the grass, climbed a ladder, taken close ups.  The day was going too fast.

Safety briefing.  Pull bumblebee to jettison canopy.  Egress.  Clear the aircraft.  Pull parachute ripcord D-ring all the way out there.

                 

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Instructor pilot Gavin Trethewey would fly with me.  Gavin is ex-Air New Zealand and flew military jets in the RNZAF.  He stressed that, “This is your flight.  It is all about you.  We will do what you want to do.”

We briefed the op.  Formation photo shoot.  An aerobatic routine.  And I would fly the Spitfire through a low-altitude corridor near the Firth of Thames.  Down on the deck to evade Adolf Galland’s Jagdgeschwader 26.

Then we boarded the airplanes.

                  

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I was strapped to a Spitfire, cocooned in history.  Twisting around, I watched Carlo clamber into his own cockpit.  Carlo and I, who love airplanes almost as much as each other, were wingmen in this incredible adventure.

                  

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Too soon, it was time to go.  Clear ‘round, switches on, starter button.  The iconic Merlin V-12 engine was smooth and warm, like an old favourite song record.  The headset crackled, Gavin checking in.  But what I heard was a radio call for my childhood airplane models.

“Gannic Squadron, scramble, orbit station angels fifteen, bandits two-zero miles.”

      
    

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Fullscreen capture 23112014 22731 AM

             

Posted from Köln, Germany.

13 December, 2014

  

  

    

Warbird Adventure Rides, Ltd.

http://www.warbird.co.nz/index.htm

Warbird Adventure Rides

  

   

   

            

History of Carlo’s Harvard:  The Royal New Zealand Air Force flew 202 North American Harvard T-6 trainer aircraft.  This was the advanced trainer flown by pilots before moving on to high-performance fighter aircraft.  This particular Harvard, NZ1057, served from the 1940s to the 1970s, then became a playground piece.  It was fully restored to airworthiness in 1998.

http://www.warbird.co.nz/harvard.htm

Harvard NZ1057

  

             

     

    

Want to hear what a Merlin engine sounds like?  Headset and medium volume recommended.  I played this here in Köln, Germany.  I thought the air raid sirens would go off.  This is the exact same Spitfire I was about to fly.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7xLVRCiHEAU

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Sleep, Food, Money, Sex, Luck

         

New Zealand is breathtaking.  Most people see this fabled land second hand, in movies like Lord of the Rings or The Last Samurai

There are flyable Spitfires in New Zealand.

     

   

New Zealand is stunning from any altitude, from the window of a Boeing 777, the cockpit of a De Havilland Beaver, or an AS350 helicopter.  It’s almost a mythical landscape.

   

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New Zealand has a strong aviation heritage.  The country perches on the edge of the South Pacific, close to Antarctica.  Airplanes are vital here.  Helipads, grass airstrips and proud aircraft museums dot the countryside.

In Christchurch I once gave a talk under an A-4K Skyhawk jet at the RNZAF museum.  They also had a Spitfire. 

     

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Auckland has the Museum of Transport and Technology.  Their Avro Lancaster is an airplane that made The Dambusters famousThe Auckland War Museum has another Spitfire, a German V1 flying bomb and a Japanese Mitsubishi Zero.

    

       

I took Carlo to New Zealand last month.  Carlo lucked through visa, document and scheduling hurdles right into a new Airbus A380 to Auckland. 

    

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Carlo will always be lucky.  He is a teacher.  Teachers are angels assigned to earth.  I always stick close to Carlo. 

We all need luck.  There are things in life you just cannot work hard enough for.

When we arrived, Auckland was buffeted by thunderstorms, gusts to 120 kph, lightning strikes.  I walked with Carlo on the waterfront, waving him around like a magic wand.  The weather began to clear. 

     

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At the cruise liner pier there was a Perry-class guided missile frigate.  I built a scale model of this 20 years ago.  Our walk was turning curiouser and curiouser.

     

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The Lancaster bomber dwarfed Carlo.  Those Rolls-Royce Merlin engines were legendary.  A Lancaster could carry to Berlin a load bigger than that of three American B-17 Flying Fortress. 

     

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The De Havilland Mosquito light bomber could carry a 4,000 ‘Cookie’ bomb to distant targets.  Merlin engines again.  Frederick Forsythe’s Shepherd.

  

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Carlo said I spent a quarter of an hour photographing the Rolls-Royce Merlin engine of the Spitfire at the War Museum.  I was being a nerdy engineer.

     

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That Merlin and the Spitfire’s wing are the Holy Grail of aircraft engineering. 

In a dogfight, you must get behind your enemy.  Then he can’t shoot back.  The Spitfire’s elliptical wing could turn a full circle faster than the German Bf-109 or the American P-51 Mustang. 

Eight guns, four inside each wing, gave the Spitfire massed firepower.  The Bf-109 could fit only one gun inside each wing, the P-51 just two or three.

        

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Wings are choices.  Long wings fit more guns but roll slower into turns.  Short wings snap into turns but have less lift and internal space.  Thin wings are faster, thick wings stronger.  Narrow wings have less drag but also less lift.

You now know more than the average pilot.  Pilots don’t read aerodynamic theory.  That’s because engineers use long words like spanwise flow, mean chord length, aspect ratio, or lift coefficient to describe what they want.  Pilots use words like sleep, food, money, and sex to describe what they want. 

  

Bet you were wondering what this article’s title was about.

   

Carlo and I had to get to Ardmore airfield.  A taxi would cost 250 Kiwi dollars.  A rental car was cheaper, but I’m too old to learn right-hand drive. 

Then we made a wrong turn on Queen Street during our walk.  We bumped into an old friend on the sidewalk.  He insisted on driving us to and from Ardmore.  He could visit his Dad there anyway.

    

Luck.

     

  

Posted from Chicago, Illinois

05 December, 2015

  

  

  

The Spitfire at Ardmore

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4l5MAorZpx0

 

More Kiwi airplane museum tales

https://tonetcarlo.wordpress.com/2014/07/19/you-had-me-at-dambusters/

https://tonetcarlo.wordpress.com/2014/05/29/kiwi-warbirds/

 

The Dambusters!

https://tonetcarlo.wordpress.com/2013/05/17/the-dam-busters/

 

How bad was the weather when we arrived?

http://www.nzherald.co.nz/weather/news/article.cfm?c_id=10&objectid=11350465

  

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It Could Never Happen to Me

 

My bucket list always had it.  To fly a Spitfire.  Impossible, of course.  “Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few.”  Winston Churchill’s soaring words during the Battle of Britain leave a painful edge today.  Of 20,351 Spitfires built, fewer than 35 are still flying.

  

     

  

  

I’d seen a Spitfire but once, its legendary Merlin engine snarling at an airshow over Arnhem.  A Kiwi friend told me years ago that Spitfires flew at Warbirds Over Wanaka, the biennial airshow in New Zealand.  I scoured their website.  Spitfires, yes.  Rides, no.

Then The Telegraph published a story about learning to fly a Spitfire. 

Learning to fly a Spitfire?

    

  

Alex James, a popular figure in Britpop, plays bass guitar for the British rock band Blur.  After a rather decadent lifestyle he has settled down with wife and family.  He did a bit of song-writing and TV gigs.  He also became a renowned cheese-maker.  He has been a pilot for 17 years.

This was a double bucket list irony for me.  Rock star.  Fly a Spitfire.  Damn.

   

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alex-james-international-cheese-awards     

The Telegraph published James’ article on Spitfire training in October, 2012 (link below).  Boultbee Flight Academy in the UK offers intro and conversion courses.  They even have a fighter appreciation course.  You scramble with another Spitfire to intercept a Messerschmitt Bf-109.

I didn’t even look up their website.  I could never afford that.

 

So I just watched Alex James’ video in the Spitfire (click on image below).  Here’s a guy who once lolled in champagne with the five prettiest groupies in a hotel.  Now awed to tears by a World War II fighter airplane.  Lucky bastard.

 

Alex James Learns to Fly a Spitfire -- Telegraph.co.uk/video

I’m Alex James and  I’ve had a pilot license for about 15 years.  But I still can’t actually look at a Spitfire without crying.

The most beautiful handling aeroplane I’ve ever flown.

Such an overwhelming head rush of imagery.  You’ve got green and pleasant land, and seeing the other Spitfire… I was crying for most of it.

An incredibly well-balanced, beautiful flying machine.

        

I watched it a lot.  Shared it on Facebook. 

Fly a Spitfire, pfft.  It could never happen to me.

   

   

 

  

Posted from Singapore

27 November, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving to readers in America

  

Next week:  Already, I Didn’t Want the Day to End

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Alex James’ full article in The Telegraph.  

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/lifestyle/9605171/Alex-James-flies-a-Supermarine-Spitfire.html

  

The video:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_8AogiF8OOI

  

Another Spitfire video I enjoyed:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4iOoiEbtf2w

 

Boultbee Flight Academy, Spitfire flight training.

http://www.boultbeeflightacademy.co.uk/

  

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Ten Seven Seventy-Eight

  

I met Rick online.  We are friends on Facebook.  We love similar music.  We are both pilots.  We are both Dads.  We both lived apart from our sons.  We both went to the Ateneo University.  There are minor issues:  He is a Harley biker, and I never learned to ride even a bicycle.  We each live on opposite sides of the Pacific Ocean.  We have never met in person.  Minor issues.

We both miss our Dads, who happened to pass within a year of each other.

Rick’s father flew F-86 Sabres for the Philippine Air Force.  A jet fighter pilot.  It doesn’t get much better than that.  His Dad also penned beautiful poetry. 

My son Carlo teaches drama, lit and poetry at the Ateneo.  Carlo assures me that poet-pilots perch on the peak of a special pinnacle.

I’m a sucker for father-and-son pilot stories.  This is one of the best.

–  Tonet

  

  

    

    

Ten Seven Seventy Eight

By Rick Saguin

  

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I still think about you every day.  Five years ago, I woke up in a cold sweat because I could not remember how you looked like.  That’s when I decided that I needed a tattoo of your face on my left arm.  Every morning, when I shave and look at the mirror, you are with me.  When I ride the bus to work.  When I shoot the breeze with my friends about flying.  When I ride my Harley.

These past few days, however, I have been out of sorts.  Confused.  Befuddled. You see, I am now 52, you left us when you were 42.  I wonder how our conversations would go now that I am a decade older than you were.  If we met on the street, would I treat you like an elder, or as a younger person?  Would I seek your advice, or dispense mine?

There are so many things that I want to tell you.  My life has exploded many times, the last major one was my divorce.  Do you remember when you took me flying on the Islander?  It was just a few months before your accident.  You told me to fly straight and level.  No sudden turns.  Control the power, trim the tabs, easy on the yoke.  And then your shoulders dropped to relax.  You took your headset off and told me to follow the Isabela River.  You smiled and I returned it – the altimeter read 200′ AGL*.  Your eyes wandered off to look at the horizon. If only life was like flying.

In 1984, after 10 hours of flight instruction, I soloed at the Port St. Lucie airport. It was a beautiful afternoon as Florida summers go.  A thunderstorm had just passed and the air was smooth and calm.  I circled Tita Marilu’s house on Elyse Circle to give a nod of gratitude — and you were with me.  And then I lined up the Cessna 152 on runway 09’s center line, you were with me as I touched down like a leaf.  You would have approved of my landing.  You were with me when Richard was born.  You were with me when I got married.  You were with me when I was honored at Microsoft for a business award that I have now forgotten.

Life continues on with equal parts of joys and stresses.  Joy is all about the children.  You should see your grandchildren — they are all well-adjusted, happy kids who would make you proud and you would have infused your humor into their lives.

My panacea for stress and pain remains the same as you taught me:  when in a bind, escape for a couple of hours to watch some film or listen to music and the solution to a problem will present itself.  When the chips are down in my life, I get lost in "Apollo 13" because Jim Lovell reminds me so much of you.  You trusted me by telling me to fly the left seat of the Islander when I was 16.  I don’t think anybody has trusted me like you did, since.

I am an atheist, as you have challenged me to think freely.  So I am not expecting that you and I will ever meet again.  But in this life, you will always be my magnetic North, my omnidirectional beacon.  I try to live my life as you lived – humbly and contentedly.  In the off chance that we may meet again, I hope to hear your story, why you hit that mountain – wasn’t full flaps and full power not enough as you tried to negotiate that mountain peak?  You almost made it.  I have remained in contact with some your friends – especially the pall bearers at your funeral.  Johnny Andrews gave you a heartfelt eulogy.  Tito Louie Lopez flew me to San Francisco on the 747 as a jump seat passenger.  Tito Nap and Bimbo have passed on.  Bimbo crashed flying a DC-9 and Tito Nap died with a broken heart from losing a son.  Skipper now flies for Etihad.  And now, "Maps" Mapeso is a friend on Facebook.  I will tell you about Facebook some other time.

Sometimes, I think that life can be a fucked up mess.  On the other hand, I think that I am holding up pretty well given the circumstances.  The family is doing great and we all have our health.

On my right arm is a tattoo of a wing with the initials RCR.  Rene, Carmen and Richard.  The three people in my life who will never throw me under the bus. The three people who remain my inspiration.

There are days when all I want to do is buy a Maule, fly charter for a living, raise a bunch of Labrador Retrievers, teach flying, teach writing, write for a living and just be true to my core.  It remains to be seen if I can make those things happen.  This is all for now.

I still think about you every day.

Your son.

  

  

(*Above Ground Level.)

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