Welcome to Mike's occasionally sky blue World
There and back again
The story really starts when I came back from the US about four years ago in the middle seat of a central row of five in a Speedbird 747, and reassembling myself on arrival at Heathrow concluded with feeling that after twenty years or so of aviation visits across the water to air shows and museums I really wouldn't force my ageing bones in to a semi-foetal position for ten hours or so, whatever the promised pleasure. I'd been to Oshkosh five times after all, and I'd need a buggy for each day, and by now it would probably be rather more than the $25 dollar that I remembered from my first pilgrimage in 1995. Then two things conspired almost subtly to make me think, well maybe...
Last year we took the car across to Ireland, going in through Rosslare and out through Dublin on a semi-circular tour to refresh the memories, notably visual, that we'd built thirty or more years ago (and topping them off with instruction in the hurling championship). The trip was a great success, shining a welcome light on some of the shadowy corners of the memory. A couple of months later with this success fresh in the mind the Inbox disgorged the first edition of the Ian Allan tours brochure for the coming year and having successfully negotiated the travel and mobility needs of last year's excursion to Poland I looked at the proposals for the 2019 Tiger Meet ; the probable dates went into the new year's diary in thick pencil with the usual caveats of detail uncertainty. During this unhurried process the words Chino and California rang a pair of bells and when re-reading the proposed itinerary the names March and Castle jumped up at me. After the 1995 Oshkosh my fellow retiree Geoff Edwards and I had taken George Pick's offer of a ticket to the West Coast and encountered some of the Calfornian Museums for the first time; these two were notable, not least because they were out of doors and therefore wiith guarenteed blue skies - I don't care what the song says, or at least didn't until this year - and they both had many, many examples of the military hardware of the 'fifties and 'sixties, an era when we were both in blue, Geoff on Vulcans.
The intermittent ghostly mutterings from over my left shoulder were of course daft; not only was I not going to subject myself to the joys of transatlantic air travel, but my mobility problems promised not only discomfort but the probably shame of slowing the progress of any group of which I was a member or even worse, delaying the departure of the bus in the morning. The voices persisted, and when around the turn of the year we were drafting our Master Plan led to serious discussion. The treatment for my lower back was having some effect, and the further delights on offer included starting in San Diego - another favourite Museum and the Midway - and finishing at Pier 39 in San Francisco, taking in a dozen museums and a major air display at Chino on the way. With substantial domestic reassurance from wife and children there were further discussions, first with My Friend Deborah at Ian Allen and then with the medical clinic, and all the omens were declared positive; and so with only mild trepidation it came to pass.
My intention was to start this ex-Spotters Tale with a pic of the Sea Dart at San Diego and then pictorially on, but not only can't I find some of the photos I thought I took but while time and the occasional afternoon nap have hindered this Master Plan, here's a couple; I was very taken by the various "fire bomber" aircraft, not least the Broncos which apparently fill the role of Master Bomber from all thise years ago. The air display at Chino was BIG and turned up a pair of unlikely 190s; the first was the Focke-Wulf 190 - the first I've seek in the air since the one that dropped a bomb on Bournemouth in the summer of 1942 - and the other a Cessna, the model that took my attention at Oshkosh in 2014 but, rather than being Shiny, in the olive of the LC-126 in Korea. Since my trans-ocean adventure, for the successfuly and almost painless completion and the paitience of my fellow travellers I am profoundly grateful, there have been several events within the preferred ninety minute radius of home, notably the D-Day commemorations and the accompanying flush of Dakotas, Skytrains and at least one Skytrooper. Seven of these were parked with accompanying crews at Old Warden before their transfer to Duxford. Most of them were decorated with the black-and-white stripes with which they're so often rightly associated, but one or two surprises appeared, not least one in the Pan American livery more often seen on longer-haul airliners. But the one I really liked bore the title of Civil Air Transport, an outfit which was involved with flying the "Hump" over Burma and wearing a splendid dragon motif. The gathering at Duxford on the Wednesday was excellent and very well-attended, an entirely justifiable occasion for bunking school! I am of course prejudiced but I thoughr it was considerably better that the display a fortnight before.
My last adrenaline rush of this period was also at Olw Warden, which was host to the Moth Club's annual Charity Flying Day, an event which I've attended for many years in the hope of getting a flight in a Puss Moth to complete my collection of Sir Geoffrey's finest. Sadly it's still not feasible but I was able to get a trip in a smart yellow Magister with a shiny nose, a type which I've been after for many years; and my three lemons came up!
I've always been a fan of the Miles family, and I had a ride in a Messenger three or four years ago, but what I really wanted when I was eleven was a Gemini; sadly my pleas were never answered, but perhaps I'll send the Moth Club a really nice card next year.
And there has been a little post-Brabazon modelling.
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