delta air lines

This will make you want to stand up and find a flag to salute….
 Please don’t cheat by
immediately scrolling to the end to see who the Pilot

This 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 and its famous owner/pilot.

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

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

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
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

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.



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