Blasts from the past

Photos and story

by R. Hawk Starkey

The first sound one heard from the sky was the roar of powerful multi-cylinder engines. Then, mystically appearing out of the distance, the sight of three pre-WWII biplanes, circling for landing at the Ashland airport.

What percent of photography is luck, I don't know. But I just happened to be sitting outside with my camera and telephoto lens on my lap. And when I heard that rumbling sound in the distance, I knew I was in luck.

The next morning, I drove out to the airport hoping to contact the pilots before they took off to return to today's San Francisco (or maybe the past era of the early 1940s) where they lived. As luck would have it, having spent the night in our fair town, the three men arrived in a taxi shortly after I did.

The Spirit Of Freedom Squadron flight leader, Bill Austin, and two friends, Tom Lambrick and John Hodgson, fly to various places to show their beautiful vintage planes and, well, to have fun flying. According to the pilots, the experience of flying one of these restored classics is something that is difficult to describe.

With much past flight experience under their belts (including both fighter and commercial flying), these gentlemen of classic air give the strong impression that this is truly the Zen of flying.

Some of the comments made to me were: "It was like I had never flown before until I flew one of these planes." And a strong "Yes!" to my comment relating to the various classic cars I have owned, that vehicles like these are "time machines."

Suiting up and doing their pre-flight check, they offered to do a fly-over in formation &

with smoke, yet! To be close to such aircraft when they are started up is truly a rush. It is a sound that says, "I am from a time long past."

I dared to close my eyes just for a moment, as I stood to the side of the runway. And it was like I was transported back in time, for when I opened my eyes (it was just for a moment, wasn't it?), I saw three biplanes through the lens of my digital camera in old black and white film, lining up for take off.

In so short a distance, each plane lifted off and floated into the sky to slowly disappear into the clouds. And best of all, I saw the peaceful concentration on the faces of those pilots, as they slipped back in time in their beautiful machines.

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