A brief story of America and what what we wereThis 1967 true story is of an experience by a young 12-year-old lad in Kingston, Ontario, Canada. It is about the vivid memory of a privately rebuilt P-51 from WWII.
In the morning sun, I could not believe my eyes. There, in our little airport, sat a majestic P-51. They said it had flown in during the night from some U.S. Airport, on its way to an air show.The pilot had been tired, so he just happened to choose Kingston for his stop over. It was to take to the air very soon. I marveled at the size of the plane, dwarfing the Pipers and Canucks tied down by her. It was much larger than in the movies. She glistened in the sun like a bulwark of security from days gone by.
The pilot arrived by cab, paid the driver, and then stepped into the pilot’s lounge. He was an older man; his wavy hair was gray and tossed. It looked like it might have been combed, say, around the turn of the century.His flight jacket was checked, creased and worn – it smelled old and genuine. Old Glory was prominently sewn to its shoulders. He projected a quiet air of proficiency and pride devoid of arrogance. He filed a quick flight plan to Montreal (“Expo-67 Air Show”) then walked across the tarmac.
After taking several minutes to perform his walk-around check, the tall, lanky man returned to the flight lounge to ask if anyone would be available to stand by with fire extinguishers while he “flashed the old bird up, just to be safe.”Though only 12 at the time I was allowed to stand by with an extinguisher after brief instruction on its use — “If you see a fire, point, then pull this lever!”, he said. (I later became a firefighter, but that’s another story.) The air around the exhaust manifolds shimmered like a mirror from fuel fumes as the huge prop started to rotate. One manifold, then another, and yet another barked — I stepped back with the others. In moments the Packard-built Merlin engine came to life with a thunderous roar. Blue flames knifed from her manifolds with an arrogant snarl. I looked at the others’ faces; there was no concern. I lowered the bell of my extinguisher. One of the guys signaled to walk back to the lounge. We did.
Several minutes later we could hear the pilot doing his pre-flight run-up. He’d taxied to the end of runway 19, out of sight. All went quiet for several seconds. We ran to the second story deck to see if we could catch a glimpse of the P-51 as she started down the runway. We could not. There we stood, eyes fixed to a spot half way down 19. Then a roar ripped across the field, much louder than before. Like a furious hell spawn set loose — something mighty this way was coming. “Listen to that thing!” said the controller.
In seconds the Mustang burst into our line of sight. It’s tail was already off the runway and it was moving faster than anything I’d ever seen by that point on 19. Two-thirds the way down 19 the Mustang was airborne with her gear going up. The prop tips were supersonic. We clasped our ears as the Mustang climbed hellishly fast into the circuit to be eaten up by the dog-day haze. We stood for a few moments, in stunned silence, trying to digest what we’d just seen.The radio controller rushed by me to the radio. “Kingston tower calling Mustang?” He looked back to us as he waited for an acknowledgment. The radio crackled, “Go ahead, Kingston.” “Roger, Mustang. Kingston tower would like to advise the circuit is clear for a low level pass.” I stood in shock because the controller had just, more or less, asked the pilot to return for an impromptu air show! The controller looked at us. “Well, What?” He asked. “I can’t let that guy go without asking. I couldn’t forgive myself!”
The radio crackled once again, “Kingston, do I have permission for a low level pass, east to west, across the field?” “Roger, Mustang, the circuit is clear for an east to west pass.” “Roger, Kingston, I’m coming out of 3,000 feet, stand by.”We rushed back onto the second-story deck, eyes fixed toward the eastern haze. The sound was subtle at first, a high-pitched whine, a muffled screech, a distant scream. Moments later the P-51 burst through the haze. Her airframe straining against positive G’s and gravity. Her wing tips spilling contrails of condensed air, prop-tips again supersonic. The burnished bird blasted across the eastern margin of the field shredding and tearing the air. At about 500 mph and 150 yards from where we stood she passed with the old American pilot saluting. Imagine. A salute! I felt like laughing; I felt like crying; she glistened; she screamed; the building shook; my heart pounded. Then the old pilot pulled her up and rolled, and rolled, and rolled out of sight into the broken clouds and indelible into my memory.
I’ve never wanted to be an American more than on that day! It was a time when many nations in the world looked to America as their big brother. A steady and even-handed beacon of security who navigated difficult political water with grace and style; not unlike the old American pilot who’d just flown into my memory. He was proud, not arrogant, humble, not a braggart, old and honest, projecting an aura of America at its best.
That America will return one day! I know it will! Until that time, I’ll just send off this story. Call it a loving reciprocal salute to a Country, and especially to that old American pilot: the late JIMMY STEWART (1908-1997),Actor, real WWII Hero (Commander of a US Army Air Force Bomber Wing stationed in England), and a USAF Reserves Brigadier General, who wove a wonderfully fantastic memory for a young Canadian boy that’s lasted a lifetime.
Tag Archives: pilot
William Andrew Dillard
Parson to Person
A small child was traveling by air to a distant city with his mother. At the airport, a kind employee gave him a wing pin to wear. In the child’s excitement he exclaimed, “Look mom, I am a pilot!” In return his mother said, “Oh, yes, son. To me you are a grand pilot, and I know that to you, you are a pilot, but to a pilot, you are not there yet.” In childhood, how marvelous are the wings of imagination. However, somewhere along Maturity Road, imagination must give way to reality in life.
Happily, for most, the processes of education, experience, and maturity succeed in equipping them to engage the realities of life with varying degrees of success as they leave childhood behind. But, if one is to draw conclusions from observation, it seems many miserably fail in the spiritual realm. One cannot be a Christian on the basis of simple imagination. Think with me about why that may be true.
A personal, one-on-one meeting with God in repentant prayer and trust in Christ Jesus is not just good, it is absolutely essential to becoming a Christian in reality. Some folks seek to be a Christian without this, depending on their works, and that just succeeds in keeping them to be an imaginative Christian. Still others joyfully recount such a personal meeting with God as described above, but like those in the parable of the sower, they fail for various reasons to follow the Lord and ingest His Word that is able to bring them into Christian reality. So they continue imagining themselves to be a Christian and when churches are filled with such immaturity, they will soon be imagining themselves to be a church.
Jesus spoke of this problem in terms that are often startling. “If any man come to me and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple.” Luke 14:26 In yet another place He said, “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.” Matt. 16:24.
Another problem of imaginative Christians is that they think there is more joy and fulfillment of life in the things of the world than in following Jesus. The great apostle Paul was a man of power, education, wealth, but how did he consider that in comparison to his life as a true Christian? He said that all things that were counted gain to him were now nothing more than a barnyard dung pile. He abandoned them all for the joy of eternal knowledge. Likewise, the true Christian invariably possesses joy unspeakable and full of glory. Think about it. Are you a robotic, imaginative Christian or a real Christian in the maturity of the Word? One day, as sure as you can read these lines, it will make an exceedingly joyful difference for all eternity.
The Bible contains the mind of God, the state of man, the way of salvation, the doom of sinners, and the happiness of believers.
Its doctrines are holy, its precepts are binding, its histories are true, and its decisions are immutable.
Read it to be wise, believe it to be safe, and practice it to be holy,
It contains light to direct you, food to support you, and comfort to cheer you.
It is the traveler’s map, the pilgrim’s staff, the pilot’s compass, the soldier’s sword, and the Christian’s charter.
Here Paradise is restored, Heaven opened, and the gates of hell disclosed.