Aug 9, 2006

Go Fly A Kite

There's a twofold meaning there, which I might have to explain later.* For now, it's just a story about an airplane.

This morning while enjoying my drive to work I found myself slowing to take in the cool air, the early sunshine filtering through the trees, and the thick fields of ripening cotton to either side of the road. My reverie, however, was interrupted by a bright yellow speck in the sky, which made my thoughts turn to a whole new track.

You see, it was a crop duster. The local dusting service uses fixed-wing airplanes instead of helicopters, specifically biplanes called Ag-Cats. This company tends to favor a sort of actinic chrome yellow colour for their planes, and they use it liberally. And the Ag-Cat, if you're not familiar with them, looks just like the classic biplane image--two short, stubby wings, fixed landing gear, an exposed, air-cooled radial engine out front with a wooden two-blade propeller, and a network of wirework between the wings. The only clue that it's not an antique is the closed canopy and the bright aluminum metalwork of the sprayers under the wing.

They use these planes instead of new, sleek monoplanes because they handle exactly how a crop-duster needs his plane to handle--plenty of lift, slow top speeds and a very slow stall speed. They can fly steadily and easily just a few feet over the crops without stalling, and can climb rapidly at the last second over trees, powerilnes, and other obstacles. In other words, it's rather like flying a tabletop.

So this morning what do I see but this bright yellow biplane soaring gently, almost leisurely over the treetops in the soft morning light. He made a gentle turn to the right and then immediately swung the plane to the left and started climbing a little bit, the very picture of an old Sopwith spooling over the aerodrome, right down to the genteel roaring of the engine and the flash of heliograph off the rudder struts.

As the light hit the tops of the double-decker wings my mind instantly saw it as a kite, sort of a box kite with a rudder, and I wanted to drive to where there was a little boy standing in one of those cotton fields, holding the long nylon strings that reached 'way up into the sky, tied to the wingtips of that wonderful kits. I wanted to see that little boy's beatific smile as he flew his lovely yellow kite in the soft light, held aloft by an unending cool breeze, in an eternal summer morning.

I wanted to be that little boy, flying his kite, without a care in the world.

*If you didn't get the inside reference there, don't be worried, it's rather esoteric. You see, in the golden age of the biplane (WWI,) Allied pilots often called their aircraft "kites."

1 comment:

Nancy Dancehall said...

That's just beautiful. Wish I could have seen it.