farewell to a plane

   ave atque vale
I took her off the ground for the last time with a feeling of sorrow. She had served her purpose, she had worked nobly; she had proved herself reliable, trustworthy, incapable of vicious or underhand tricks. She bore the marks of her patience under fire, her endurance was witnessed by honorable scars: a dozen patches on her white wings, new wires here and there, a bound strut, a patch of darker paint on her nacelle.
She was to be taken away and dismantled, reduced to her component parts. As an individual her life was finished, her identity destroyed when her number was erased from the books.

Yet to me she will remain as I used so often to see her in the uncertain light of daybreak. In memory I can see her still, from the deck of the barge where half-dressed I have come to sip hastily from a steaming-hot cup of tea. She stands before her canvas hangar, her large yet frail-looking wings outspread, glistening with dew. Her nacelle points towards the east whence come the stealthy rays of the hidden sun, and towards which she will presently fly in search of adventure if not glorious at least not unworthy.
Her engine warms slowly, emitting a sharp, regular tick like that of a cheap but sturdy clock. By her side two sleepy mechanics await my coming... She is gone now, but her memory brings back a zest of youth. Ave atque vale.

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

about a Shorthorn in 1914. 'ave atque vale': goodbye and farewell

farewell to a plane

   the old dear
Before I went to the Mess I made the excuse I wanted to get something out of my aeroplane, and climbed into the cockpit; I did this, however, to be able to say good-bye to the old dear; and I really felt dreadfully sorry to part with her. I get very attached to aeroplanes, and I am one of those people who think that they aren't so inanimate as we are told they are.

Charles Rumney Samson, A Flight from Cairo to Cape Town and back (1931)

farewell to a plane

   the Temple of Heaven
And should I not, had I but known, have flung the machine this way and that, once more to feel it live under my hand, have sported in the sky and laughed and sung, knowing that never after should I feel so free, so sure in hazard, so secure, riding the daylight in the pride of youth? No more horizons wider than Hope! No more the franchise of the sky, the freedom of the blue! No more! Farewell to wings! Down to the little earth!

That distant day had a significance I could not give it then. So we wheeled and came back south towards the city. The Temple of Heaven slipped by underneath, that perfect pattern in its ample park. Then the wide plain ruled to the far horizon. Soon the aerodrome.

Now shut the engines off. Come down and flatten out, feel the long float, and at the given moment pull the stick right home. She's down. Now taxi in. Switch off. It's over - but not quite, for the port engine, just as if it knew, as if reluctant at the last to let me go, kicked, kicked, and kicked again, as overheated engines will, then backfired with an angry snorting: Fool! The best is over ...But I did not hear.

Cecil Lewis, Sagittarius Rising (1936)

flying for the last time a Vickers Vimy over Peking, 1921

farewell to a plane

The snapping of the nervous tension was dreadful, as painful as a surgical operation.
Mackenzie... Jimmy Kelly... Mouse Manson... young Kidd... Bone... Shepherd... Brooker... Gordon... dark uniforms too, with tarnished gold stripes... Mouchotte... Mézilles... Béraud... Pierrot Degail - all those who had set off one fine morning in their Spitfires or their Tempests and who hadn't come back.
'Well Pierre, that's that. They won't need us any more.'

I had that morning gone to say my farewells to Broadhurst and to the RAF. I had made a point of going to HQ at Schleswig in my 'Grand Charles'. Coming back I had taken him high up in the cloudless summer sky, for it was only there that I could fittingly take my leave.
Together we climbed for the last time straight towards the sun. We looped once, perhaps twice, we lovingly did a few slow, meticulous rolls, so that I could take away in my finger-tips the vibration of his supple, docile wings.

And in that narrow cockpit I wept, as I shall never weep again, when I felt the concrete brush against his wheels and, with a great sweep of the wrist, dropped him on the ground like a cut flower.
As always, I carefully cleared the engine, turned off all the switches one by one, removed the straps, the wires and the tubes which tied me to him, like a child to his mother. And when my waiting pilots and my mechanics saw my downcast eyes and my shaking shoulders, they understood and returned to the dispersal in silence.

Pierre Clostermann, The big show (1951)

farewell to a plane

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