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Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Of touch and perception

[Capt Picard resting his hand on The Phoenix]
Capt Picard: It's a boyhood fantasy... I must have seen this ship hundreds of times in the Smithsonian but I was never able to touch it.
Lt Cmdr Data: Sir, does tactile contact alter your perception of The Phoenix?
Capt Picard: Oh, yes! For humans, touch can connect you to an object in a very personal way, make it seem more real.

---STAR TREK - First Contact

Today, I went to the Lynchburg Airport and played out the above scene for myself. As Bob mentioned in a previous entry in this blog, The Collins Company brought two of its restored World War 2 heavy bombers, a B-24 Liberator and a B-17G Flying Fortress, to town in the Wings of Freedom tour.

Like many boys, I was always fascinated with airplanes, especially military airplanes, and the heavy bombers always produced a special gleam in my eyes. Just the mention of a B-17 was enough to perk my ears. The Flying Fortress was my favorite. Maybe it is because of family connections, my uncle was an electrician on one and my father’s uncle was a tail gunner, or maybe it was that they were just so darn cool looking, but either way I amassed a serious amount of reading materials, pictures, technical manuals, etc on the B-17. In my youth I could have probably told you what each instrument was from memory. I had seen these planes many times of course, but always at a distance, or behind roped off areas. I had watched them flying gracefully overhead listening to that distinctive sound that only radial engines make (in the case of the B-17, it was four Wright Cyclone engines, each producing a whopping 1200 horsepower). But I had never touched one Never felt the aluminum skin and the rivets under my fingers. Never climbed inside and realized how painfully small these massive bombers actually are or smelled the musty smell that comes with sixty years of grease and oil and sweat and paint and, well... time.

Today, I too was able to realize a boyhood fantasy and I did indeed have my perception altered because of tactile contact. I had always respected the boys (and they were boys, 18, 19, 20 yrs old) who flew these big bombers into combat. They risked attack from anti-aircraft guns on the ground and from fighters in the air and yet they never wavered. These planes were cramped and cold and had very little protection for the crew. And yet, the crews flew on. Crawling through them today with my kids made me realize even more what a great thing our fathers and grandfathers did in that war.

There is a recruting poster from the early forties that says it best:

A worthwhile thought then, and now.

Here’s to altered perceptions.



At 8:50 PM, Blogger B O B said...

Great post Jeff I have some more pictures I took the other day if you would like to have them, they are yours. Having walked under a wing of a B-52, it is quite amazing how really small these planes were.

At 12:38 AM, Anonymous D L Ennis said...

A wonderful post Jeff...these are indeed magnificent planes!


At 5:54 PM, Blogger Jeff said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

At 5:56 PM, Blogger Jeff said...

Thanks ! :)
I had a great time. Spent most of the day there, even went back with the kids. The planes took off this am and flew over my parent's house on the way to Charleston WV. Majestic!
And yes, I would sure like to see those pics. I'm afraid my dig cam is rather cheap.


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