“To fly west, my friend, is a flight we all must take for a final check." (Author unknown)
Destination (Author unknown)
I hope there's a place way up in the sky,
Where airmen can go when they die.
A place where a guy can buy a cold beer,
For a friend and a comrade, whose memory is dear.
A place where no doctor or lawyer can tread,
Nor a management type would ere be caught dead.
Just a quaint little place, kind of dark, full of smoke,
Where they like to sing loud, and love a good joke.
The kind of a place where a lady could go,
And feel safe and protected by the men she would know.
There must be a place where old airmen go,
When their paining is finished, and their airspeed gets low.
Where the whiskey is old, and the women are young,
And songs about flying and dying are sung.
Where you'd see all the fellows who'd flown west before,
And they'd call out your name, as you came through the door.
Who would buy you a drink, if your thirst should be bad,
And relate to others, "He was quite a good lad."
And then through the mist, you'd spot an old guy,
You had not seen in years, though he taught you to fly.
He'd nod his old head, and grin ear to ear,
And say, "Welcome, my son, I'm pleased that you're here,
For this is the place where true flyers come,
When their journey is over, and the war has been won.
They've come here at last to be safe and alone,
From the government clerk, and the management clone,
Politicians and lawyers, the Feds and the noise,
Where all hours are happy, and these good ole boys,
Can relax with a cool one, and well deserved rest,
This is heaven my son..... You've passed your last test!"
Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of earth
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I've climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
Of sun-split clouds - and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of - wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence. Hov'ring there
I've chased the shouting wind along, and flung
My eager craft through footless halls of air.
Up, up the long delirious, burning blue,
I've topped the windswept heights with easy grace
Where never lark, or even eagle flew -
And, while with silent lifting mind I've trod
The high untresspassed sanctity of space,
Put out my hand and touched the face of God.
Pilot Officer Gillespie Magee
No 412 squadron, RCAF
Killed 11 December 1941
I'll Remember You
I look up to the clouds and
See your smiling face,
I remember you so well and
All your flying grace.
For we were young happy
And the flying was so great.
It was that common love we
Shared that sealed our bond
In all our days of Tiger flights,
We circled the world and saw its sights.
God bless your gentle folded wings,
I will always remember these treasured things.
by Pat Johnson Bliss
Memories from 30 Years of Flying the Line with Flying Tigers and FedEx
By Capt. Bill Austin
Flying Tigers/FedEx, Retired
- Sunrises seen from the high flight levels that make the heart soar.
- The patchwork quilt of the great plains from FL 370 on a day when you can see forever.
- Cruising mere feet above a billiard-table-flat cloud deck at mach .86, with your chin on the glare shield and your face as close as you can get it to the windshield.
- Punching out the top of a low overcast while climbing 6,000 feet per minute.
- The majesty and grandeur of towering cumulus.
- Rotating at VR and feeling 800,000 plus pounds of airplane come alive as she lifts off.
- The delicate threads of St. Elmo’s Fire dancing on the windshield at night.
- The twinkle of lights on the Japanese fishing fleet far below, on a night crossing of the North Pacific.
- Cloud formations that are beautiful beyond description.
- Ice fog in Anchorage on a cold winter morning.
- Seeing geologic formations that no ground-pounder will ever see.
- The chaotic, non-stop babble of radio transmissions at O’Hare or Kennedy during the afternoon rush.
- The quietness of center frequency at night during a transcontinental flight.
- The welcome view of approach lights appearing out of the mist just as you reach minimums.
- Lightning storms at night over the Midwest.
- The soft, comforting glow of the instrument panel in a dark cockpit.
- The dancing curtains of colored light of the aurora on a winter-night Atlantic crossing.
- The taxiway names at O’Hare… before they were renamed: The Bridge, Lakeshore Drive, Old Scenic, New Scenic, Outer, The Bypass, Cargo, North-South…
- The majestic panorama of an entire mountain range stretched out beneath you from horizon to horizon.
- Lenticular clouds over the Sierras.
- The brief, yet tempting, glimpse of runway lights…. after you’ve already committed to the missed approach.
- The Alps in winter.
- The lights of London at night from FL350.
- Squall lines that run as far as you can see.
- Exotic lands with exotic food.
- Maneuvering the airplane through day lit canyons between towering cumulus clouds.
- The deep blue-gray of the sky at FL 430.
- The hustle and bustle of Hong Kong Harbor.
- The softness of a touchdown on a snow-covered runway.
- Hearing the nosewheel spin down against the snubber in the well after takeoff. A delightful sound signaling that you were on your way!
- Old Chinatown in Singapore… before it was torn down, modernized, and sterilized.
- Watching the lightning show while crossing the ITCZ at night.
- Long-tail boats speeding along the klongs in Thailand.
- The quietly turning paddle fans in the lobby of the old Raffles Hotel in Singapore.
- Dodging colored splotches of red and yellow light on the radar screen at night.
- The sound of foreign accents on the radio.
- Luxury hotels.
- To paraphrase the eloquent aviation writer, Ernie Gann, “The allure of the slit in a China girl's skirt.”
- Sunsets of every color imaginable.
- The tantalizing glow of the flashing strobe lights just before you break out of the clouds on approach.
- Yosemite Valley from above.
- The almost blindingly-brilliant-white of a towering cumulus cloud.
- A cold San Miguel in Hong Kong after a long day’s flying.
- Ocean crossings.
- The taxiway sentry (with his flag & machine gun) at the old Taipei downtown airport.
- Seventy-thousand-foot-high thunderstorm clouds in the tropics.
- Sipping Pina Coladas in a luxury hotel bar, while a typhoon rages outside.
- Chinese Junks bobbing in Aberdeen harbor.
- Watching the latitude count down to zero on the INS, and seeing it switch from “N” to “S” as you cross the equator.
- Wake Island at sunrise.
- Oslo Harbor at dusk.
- Icebergs in the North Atlantic.
- Pago Harbor, framed by puffy cumulus clouds in the late afternoon.
- The camaraderie of a good crew.
- Ferryboat races in Sydney Harbour.
- Experiencing all the lines from the old Jo Stafford tune…
- See the pyramids along the Nile.
- See the sunrise on a tropic isle.
- See the market place in old Algiers.
- Send home photographs and souvenirs.
- Fly the ocean in a silver plane.
- See the jungle when it’s wet with rain.
- White picket fences in Auckland.
- Trade winds.
- White sandy beaches lined with swaying palms.
- Double-decker buses in London.
- The endless expanse of white on a polar crossing.
- The Star Ferry in Hong Kong.
- Bangkok after a tropical rain.
- Mono Lake and the steep wall of the Sierra Nevada range when approached from the east.
- The bus ride to Stanley... on the upper deck front seat of the double-decker bus.
- The Long Bar at the Raffles.
- Heavy takeoffs from the reef runway at HNL.
- Landings in the B-747 when the only way you knew you had touched down was the movement of the spoiler handle.
- Jimmy’s Kitchen.
- The deafening sound of tropical raindrops slamming angrily against the windshield, accompanied by the hurried slap, slap, slap of the windshield wipers while landing in a torrential downpour in Manila.
- Endless ripples of sand dunes across the trackless miles of the Sahara desert.
- Miller’s Pub in Chicago.
- German beer.
- The white cliffs of Dover.
- Oom-pa-pa music at Meyer Gustels in Frankfurt.
- Fjords in Norway.
- The aimless compass, not knowing where to point as you near the top of the world on a polar crossing.
- The old Charlie-Charlie NDB approach into Kai Tak.
- Brain bags crammed with charts to exotic places.
- The Peak tram in Hong Kong.
- Breaking out of the clouds on the IGS approach to runway 13 at Kai Tak, and seeing a windshield full of “checkerboard.”
- An empty weight takeoff in a B-747.
- The bustle of Nathan Road on a summer day.
- Sliding in over Crystal Springs reservoir for a visual approach and landing on 1R in SFO.
- The smell of tropical blooms when you step off the plane in Fiji.
- The quietness of a DC-10 cockpit.
- Main gear touching down while the 747 cockpit is still 70 feet in the air.
- The Eagle Pub in Cambridge.
- The coziness of a B-747 cockpit.
- Good flight engineers.
- The Burma Road.
- CAT IIIb autolands in the DC-10 on a foggy day, when you feel the wheels touch before you ever see the ground.
- The rush of a full-speed-brakes descent at barber pole in a B-727.
- The back-door approach into Kai Tak in a B-747 with your wingtip skimming the rooftops of Yau Yat Chen as you make the steep turn to final.
- The twists and turns of the noise-abatement departure out of Osaka’s old Itami Airport.
- Deadheading in First Class.
- The Canarsie approach into JFK.
- The “Gas Station” in Frankfurt.
- The Eiffel Tower.
- Max gross weight takeoffs.
- Cross-wind landings.
- Good co-pilots.
- A large handful of thrust levers, each one connected to 50,000+ pounds of thrust.
- Man-sized rudder pedals… as big as pie plates.
- “Leak-checking” your eyelids on a long night flight.
- And as one close friend pointed out, payday!