418. We never stop learning

On Sunday we shall be at the Shuttleworth Festival of Flying. Not as part of the air display, unfortunately, with a broken piston ring in need of replacement, but comfortably in the entrance to No. 1 hangar where we look forward to seeing you if you’re there.

If you read my last epistle, you’ll have seen that despite the trials and tribulations (and expense) with the Hilux, we’d taken the decision to hire a replacement tow vehicle and were (and are) all set to go. But no sooner had I booked the hire vehicle than I had an email from the show’s organiser, the irrepressible Panos Georgiadis, which has put the entire airshow in doubt. The official FaceBook page has made the following announcement:

‘Important announcement: According to the official statement of the Greek government spokesman on the 28th of May 2019, the Greek Prime Minister is going to discuss with the President of the Hellenic Republic the possibility of calling for National Elections on the 7th of July 2019. The Organising Committee of the 8th Kavala Air/Sea Show 2019 is therefore planning to make formal announcements regarding the 8th Kavala Air/Sea Show on the 3rd of June 2019. Panagiotis Georgiadis Colonel (res. HAF) KASS Organiser & Flying Display Director.’

GAAAAGH! If this was a TV drama it would have been dismissed as ridiculously improbable. But you never know. We shall have to wait until Monday to see what the final decision is.

Flt. Lt. Day RNAS

On a much more cheery note, the latest issue of Cross and Cockade magazine has published a wonderful article about Flt. Lt. Jeffery Day (1896 – 1918) who served as a Bristol Scout pilot on HMS Vindex, and was the pilot of the first aircraft (a Bristol Scout) to take off from another aircraft – the improbably-named Porte Baby.050 Scout C 3028 on Felixstowe Porte Baby first composite aircraft 1916.jpg

The intention was for the seaplane to cruise at altitude over the North Sea to intercept Zeppelins, at which point the Scout would take off and shoot it down. Day successfully achieved the separation from an airborne seaplane in February 1916, but the idea wasn’t followed up.

Day served in a number of roles, and was killed attacking a number of seaplanes in a Sopwith Camel.

By all accounts he was a superb natural pilot…

Scout D 8980 banking - Flt Sub Lt Day from Short Seaplane 9755 by PO Woodcock cropped.jpg
This is one of the most famous photos of a Bristol Scout, which was being flown by Jeffery Day. Part of the sequence shows him inverted at the top of a loop!

… but he was also an accomplished poet, having had a number of poems published in his lifetime and a collection of his work was published in 1919.

But my favourite, which describes to perfection what it’s like to fly a Bristol Scout. 

On the Wings of the Morning

By Flt Lt Jeffrey Day RNAS, Bristol Scout pilot. 1896 – 1918

JDaySwaineCloseUp.jpgA sudden roar, a mighty rushing sound,
A jolt or two, a smoothly sliding rise,
A tumbled blur of disappearing ground,
And then all sense of motion slowly dies,
Quiet and calm, the earth slips past below,
As underneath a bridge still waters flow.

My turning wing inclines toward the ground;
The ground itself glides up with graceful swing
And at the plane’s far tip twirls slowly round,
Then drops from sight again beneath the wing
To slip away serenely as before,
A cubist-patterned carpet on the floor.

Hills gently sink and valleys gently fill.
The flattened fields grow ludicrously small;
Slowly they pass beneath and slower still
Until they hardly seem to move at all.
Then suddenly they disappear from sight
Hidden by fleeting wisps of faded white.

The wing-tips, faint and dripping, dimly show
Blurred by the wreaths of mist that intervene.
Weird, half-seen shadows flicker to and fro
Across the pallid fog-bank’s blinding screen.
At last the choking mists release their hold,
And all the world is silver, blue and gold.

The air is clear, more clear than sparkling wine;
Compared with this, wine is a turgid brew.
The far horizon makes a clean-cut line
Between the silver and depthless blue.
Out of the snow-white level reared on high
Glittering hills surge up to meet the sky.

Outside the wind screen’s shelter gales may race;
But in the seat a cool and gentle breeze
Blows steadily upon my grateful face.
As I sit motionless and at my ease,
Contented just to loiter in the sun
And gaze around me till the day is done.

And so I sit half sleeping, half awake,
Dreaming a happy dream of golden days
Until at last, with a reluctant shake
I rouse myself and with lingering gaze
At all the splendour of the shining plain
Make ready to come down to earth again.

The engine stops; a pleasant silence reigns –
Silence, not broken, but intensified
By the soft, sleepy wire’s insistent strains,
That rise and fall as with a sweeping glide
I slither down the well-oiled sides of space,
Towards a lower, less enchanted place.

The clouds draw nearer, changing as they come.
Now, like a flash, fog grips me by the throat.
Down goes the nose: at once the wire’s low hum
Begins to rise in volume and in note,
Till, as I hurtle from the choking cloud
It swells into a scream, high pitched, and loud.

The scattered hues and shades of green and brown
Fashion themselves into the land I know,
Turning and twisting, as I spiral down
Towards the landing-ground; till, skimming low
I glide with slackening speed across the ground,
And come to rest with lightly grating sound.

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