Are we all familiar with the famous poem, High Flight, by John Gillespie Magee Jr.? If not, it follows this paragraph in its entirety. Few fellow aviators speak of the poetry and romance in what we do, fewer still can write about it. Perhaps it’s not so surprising this piece was written in some earlier flying days (1941) when the magic dust of aviation was still heavily sprinkled on the chosen few. Mr. Magee was a young American who had enrolled in the RAF to help the Brits in their engagement with the Axis powers. This was prior to the Americans joining the war. Sadly, the young man died in a mid-air collision flying a Spitfire. His words remain forever…
Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of earth
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I’ve climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
Of sun-split clouds – and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of – wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence. Hov’ring there
I’ve chased the shouting wind along, and flung
My eager craft through footless halls of air.
Up, up the long delirious, burning blue,
I’ve topped the windswept heights with easy grace
Where never lark, or even eagle flew -
And, while with silent lifting mind I’ve trod
The high untresspassed sanctity of space,
Put out my hand and touched the face of God.
It’s that one phrase which, I think, captures the essence of it all and it’s one I will sometimes repeat silently to myself…’danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings.’
Now to the main point. It appears we are getting closer to flying like birds which, some would argue (including me), is the ultimate goal of heading into the air in the first place. Check out this video and you’ll be amazed at the realism of this flying model. Obviously there are issues to address before something like this goes full scale–not the least of which is how to keep the cockpit steady instead of pulsating up and down. Still, there is a palpable allure in simply watching this thing fly. Check it out.