Greetings, my fellow port swillers!
Ol’ Robbo spent a very pleasant Friday lunch hour today by strolling down to the National Mall to watch the Arsenal of Democracy Capitol Flyover marking the 70th anniversary of V.E. Day.
It was a very nice event. The weather was warm and a bit sultry but not too oppressive. There were considerably more people on hand than I had anticipated, many of them putting on dog about their expertise in WWII history and aircraft specifications, as well as making jokes about taking the opportunity of so many warbirds over Your Nation’s Capitol to maybe take out some of its more obnoxious institutions and residents.
In carefully-organized groups designed to plot the aerial history of the War, the nineteen-odd different types of planes came down the Potomac, swung east just past the Jefferson Memorial, cruised down the south side of the Mall at about 600 ft or so to roughly the height of the Capitol and then split off to return to their fields. (A friend of mine was among a group of watchers who assembled at Great Falls Park upstream to see them pass over. Another friend reported that the George Washington Parkway – which runs down the river – was at a standstill as people got out of their cars to watch.)
You can say what you like about the benefits of modern jet-propulsion, but there’s nothing really to match the aesthetic beauty of the meaty growl of a high-HP prop engine pulling its bird along.
Many of the folks around me seemed to be very intent on their iThingies or printed programs, scrambling to keep up with the data therein as the parade went by. Me, I just reveled in the here and the now. When I was a kid, I was a bit of a nerd (shut up) and spent most of my time either reading about WWII or building 1/48 scale models of the Allied aircraft involved. Before I left home for college, I had models of most of the American Army Air Corp and Air Force involved, aside from scouts, trainers, the Catalina flying-boat, and, for some reason, the B-24 Liberator. As an aside, if I may say so, I got quite good at detailing them – salt stains on the carrier-based planes, appropriate paint jobs, battle damage, exhaust and gun streaks. (Yeah, I didn’t date much in high school. Again, shut up.)
My one regret was that I didn’t think to bring along my bird-watching binocs. Even with corrective lenses, I have rotten eyesight. The heavies and the more distinctive single-props were very easy to identify, but I’m afraid I didn’t quite I.D. all of the fighters the way I should have, despite my intense, ah, squinting.
Nonetheless, I was able to simply stand and admire as the successive waves of birds made their way down the parade route. And while many of the folks around me seemed to lose interest in each wave as soon as it passed our station (I was standing on 7th street on the north side of the Mall), I made a point of watching all of them finish their runs. (The organizers, either out of safety concerns or for the benefit of the onlookers, spaced the flights to make this completely possible.) Why should a vintage aircraft be any less beautiful because it’s flying away from one rayther than towards one?
One thing I saw: Just after a flight of three Navy Helldivers swung around to start their run up the Mall, one of them suddenly broke formation and headed off to the southwest. I wondered about this greatly, but nobody around me seemed to notice. Turns out the bird was suffering some kind of mechanical problem and had to put down at Reagan Airport (which, fortunately, was less than two minutes away). Everything turned out fine in the end.
Even in these miserably dark days, the whole affair was most encouraging.
Of course, these guys were all stooging along in their Sunday-go-to-meetings. How about a little pron?
Curious thing. I love everything about flying except, you know, actually flying, of which regular friends of the decanter know ol’ Robbo is quite frightened. Go figure.