visions of take-off

   a Longhorn taking off
Presently the Longhorn's engine was started up. It was a Renault of uncertain strenght, eight cylindered, air-cooled, small but wonderfully reliable. When running slowly it made a noise like a pair of alarm-clocks ticking upon a marble mantelpiece.
After listening awhile to the engine, the pilot waved hands, attendant mechanics removed wooden blocks from beneath the wheels, and the machine moved forward slowly, lurching slightly over the uneven ground like a cow going out to pasture. The alarm-clocks ticked much louder; the network of piano-wire, nacelle and occupants, all hanging rather mysteriously together, moved away at increasing speed.

The Longhorn was now scurrying across the aerodrome at the most alarming speed. It seemed impossible that the various parts should still be holding together. The machine hugged the ground; the curving horns, the wheels and skids, the tail-booms were all buried in the uncut grass through which the propeller seemed to be blazing a trail, and that and the noise of the receding engine made me think of nothing so much as a lawnmower running amok. I watched, holding my breath. It rose a few inches; higher; it flew!
O wondrous contrivance! "Hail to thee, blithe spirit, bird thou never wert!" Shelley should have been a pilot.

Duncan Grinnel-Milne,
Wind in the Wires (1926)

visions of take-off

   first spring outing

At long last spring came to Soesterberg; the young spring and the good life. We've had enough of rainfilled clouds and wet heather and weeks of wingless gawking around on these grey plains. But today..! Now, our Fokkers have gone outside in droves; now the engines thunder in front of the hangars; now the sun gleams on the wings. At last: the traditional start-up conversation between mechanic and flyer. 'Switch off?' 'Switch off!' - a few heaves on the propeller - 'All clear?' ...'Contact!' ...Rrrrróoom!, booms the B.M.W... 500 revs... 1000 revs... full throttle, and then calm down again; now the chocks away... and there we go, hopping upon the field, to the start flag. A quick turn in the wind ...ready? Full throttle, we dart away. Pull the stick and we are off.

Off! Through the clear spring air we rise. Look how bright it is today! Look how the sun sparkles off the roofs of Utrecht and Hilversum, how Lek, Eem and Zuiderzee gleam and flash in our cheerful country. The woods of Het Gooi are bare as yet and form a brown haze on the land; between the red roofs of Zeist and Amersfoort we still miss the green of broad treetops. But there are colours abounding in the smiling light land; our Holland of which you did not know it was so beautiful.

Andries Viruly, Voor vrij? Contact! (All clear? Contact!) (1928)

visions of take-off

   take-off in the African moonlight

Splutter, splutter. Yes - we're off - we're rising. But why start off with an engine like that? But it smooths out now, like a long sigh, like a person breathing easily, freely. Like someone singing ecstatically, climbing, soaring - sustained note of power and joy. We turn from the lights of the city; we pivot on a dark wing; we roar over the earth. The plane seems exultant now, even arrogant. We dit it, we did it! We're up, above you. We were dependant on you just now, prisoners fawning on you for favors, for wind and light. But now, we are free. We are up; we are off. We can toss you aside, for we are above it.

Anne Morrow Lindbergh, Listen! the wind (1938)

visions of take-off

   take-off in a Typhoon

With my parachute on my back it took three people to help me up to the Typhoon's cockpit, which is nine feet off the ground. As the plane is very streamlined there is nothing to hang on to. You have to get your fingers in hollows which are covered by metal plates on spring hinges. They close up again when you remove your hand or foot, just like a rat trap. In the end they hoisted me up, settled me in, slapped me on the back, shouted 'good luck', and I found myself all alone in the bowels of the monster.

I inserted a cartridge into the starter. (The Koffman system, which uses the violent expansion of explosive gases to get the engine turning. If the engine doesn't start first time it will almost certainly catch fire, being bung-full of juice.) With one finger on the coil booster and another on the starter button, I fired the cartridge. The mechanic, hanging on to the wing, helped to 'catch' the engine and it started up with a deafening roar. The amount of noise is about five times as great as in a Spitfire. After missing a few times, the engine settled down to a reasonable steady rhythm, though not without exuding oil at every pore.

That engine! You moved forward quite blindly, picking out the way like a crab, with a bit of rudder now left, now right, so as to be able to see in front. I cleared the plugs, as per instructions, by opening up to 3,000 revs., and a film of oil immediately spread over my windshield.
Christ, I must have forgotten something - and my confounded engine was beginning to heat. A glance round - my flaps were at 15° all right, my radiator was open ...Hell, the radio! I quickly switched it on and called: 'Hullo, Skydoor, Skydoor, Tiffie 28 calling, May I scramble?' The controller replied by at last giving me a green light. Here goes! I tightened my straps, released the brakes, carefully aligned myself on the white line down the middle of the concrete and slowly opened the throttle, with my left foot hard down on the rudder bar.

I had been warned that Typhoons swung, but surely not as much as this! And the brute gathered speed like a rocket! Half-way down the runway my right wheel was practically on the grass. If I came off the concrete I would gracefully flip on my back!
To hell with it! I tore her off the ground.
I retracted my undercart but forgot to put the brakes on. A terrific vibration which shook the whole plane from stem to stern reminded me that my wheels had gone into the cavities in the wings still revolving at full speed.
Really, it had been very pleasant behind that office desk...

Pierre Clostermann, The big show (1951)

visions of take-off

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