Like most Virginians, I like the sound of airplanes. I dislike the noise of the commercial jets that fly into and out of the international airport, but I love the distinctive pop of an antique rotary engine, the roar of a restored Warbird, or the whine of an aerobatic Pitts about to go into a spin. When a familiar or unfamiliar noise reaches my ears, I instinctively shade my eyes and look up to see what interesting object is causing the sound.
Aviation and the pilots who dare to ride in experimental aircraft are an unending source of fascination and pride. At some time, they all asked “what if…?” and innovation was born. Someone had to look at a propeller spinning before his nose and wonder if he could time the release of bullets to pass through the blades without shooting down his own plane. Someone had to wonder if the lift and drag on an airplane would combine to allow the aircraft to fly upside down. Someone wondered if he could go higher and faster. Someone wondered how to cross oceans. The helicopter was conceived to fill the need for a vehicle that could take off and land in a short field. Today’s Osprey continues the tradition.
I’m not a fan of noise, but I am a fan of technology and progress. I stare upward at air shows because the aircraft are entertaining and the tail draggers of the last century are the fore-bearers of modern aviation. Their smoke and stunts require skill and daring, characteristics that have always served pilots well. When I set part of my Virginia is for Mysteries II story at the Virginia Air Museum, I wanted to draw attention to the pieces of our history they display.
Think about these engineering marvels the next time you hear an interesting sound. Then look up. Is it a B52, a crop duster, or a pilot in a powered parachute? The next time they fly by, maybe they’ll be familiar to you, recognizable by the unique sound.
Kathleen Mix is a multi-published Virginia author. She loves to hear from readers. Email her at Kathleen at kathleenmix.com, visit her website, or connect with her through Twitter @kathleenmix.