Monday, September 08, 2008

It was a very busy weekend with a successful signing at the Barnes & Noble in Enfield Conn. on Saturday (the next one is Oct. 4 at 10 a.m. at the B&N in Holyoke) and a successful sales effort at the Mattoon Street Arts festival on Sunday.

Thank you to the friends and family who turned out to say hello and buy a book and thanks to the many people who came out who are among my readers.

I went to the Great New England Air Show at Westover ARB on Sunday morning to take photos for the paper and for myself. My father, a career Air Force pilot and officer, was stationed three times at Westover when it was an active base. That's the reason we wound up in Massachusetts.

Every time my wife and I go to the Cummington Fair, I'm hit with the urge of selling the house in Springfield – not in this market – and moving to the country and do a bit of farming. It is true: you can take the boy off the farm, but you can't take the farm out of the boy.

And when I'm at Westover to cover a story or to go to the Air Show, I have deep regrets I didn't join the Air Force out of college or go ROTC.

One of the Air Show moments that linked me to my father was the chance to not once, but twice go up in a vintage B-17. My dad flew them in WWII (B-29s in Korea and his last plane was a B-52) and from what I understand it was his favorite plane. A photo of him in front of "Sue's Special" – named after my mother – is in our living room.

Well, the farm bit might happen one day – my neighbors have chickens so couldn't I raise some laying hens? – but the Air Force doesn't want a flabby 54 year-old.

In any event by going early to the Air Show I completely avoided the horrendous traffic jams and was able to get some pretty good shots.

Here is one of the Westover C-5s in flight. The thing barrelled down the runway, cocked itself upwards at a near impossible angle and took off into the sky like a rocket. It was very impressive to see it fly with the pilot showing how the biggest plane the Air Force flies can maneuver.

Here's a vintage Corsair with the folding wings designed for service on aircraft carriers.

Here's a shot of the nose of the B-17 that was having some technical issues. My hat is off to the guys who keep these pieces of history in the air. It's astounding to me. When I was a kid I was under the strong impression the B-17 was made out of wood. I don't know why. For some reason the dull greenish/brown many were painted during WWII equated to be lumber in my mind.

The B-52 was flown out of Westover and many of the childhood memories revolved around my father's service on them as a pilot. He used to be placed on alert – this was the Cold War and those B-52 carried nukes – and had to live in an underground bunker that the men used to call "the Mole Hole." He'd get to come out of it periodically and talk to us through a fence. The building still exists only now it is the terminal for the civilian airport at Westover.

What surprises me is the B-52 is still flying as many of these planes are over 40 years-old.

Any good air show has stunt acts and this is one of those with a woman from Canada who makes her living walking on a biplane in flight.

© 2008 by Gordon Michael Dobbs

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