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Banbury Cross

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Post details: Aerial Bridge Across the Ages

Aerial Bridge Across the Ages

The other day I saw a nature show on TV about whales. The one image that stuck in my mind was that of a baby whale trudging alongside a mama whale as it was learning to swim on its own. The fledgling little behemoth was trying to keep up but every now and then it had to be nudged in the right direction. The image of a formidable, multiple ton mammal displaying parental tenderness seemed like a visual oxymoron. But it was moving in a way.

"Moving" is not a word I would normally associate with an Air Show. Sentimentality has little place in an enterprise brimming with military might, high-tech swagger and pilots' bravado. However, last week's Air Show at Andrews Air Force Base proved me wrong on that count. A weekend extravaganza held just outside of the Washington's Beltway managed to inject a little heart into the high-octane parade of the aluminum and titanium machinery.

The show flaunted the well polished hardware of the mightiest Air Force in the world. Bulging cargo planes opened up their reinforced bellies to loitering crowds. Wide eyed kids had a chance to sit at cockpits filled with mysterious dials and levers. Circuitry aficionados could study the wiry details of exposed innards. Formidable helicopters and sleek fighter jets stood silently on the tarmac, displayed prominently like some giant toys in a window shop. History buffs could compare their recollections with reality, and - in a way - so could taxpayers. But besides all this paraphernalia, the program also featured several flying demonstrations, including the famous vertical takeoff Harrier. But the one I am alluding to in the opening paragraph was titled the Heritage Flight. It was a tandem flyover in which a historical P-51 Mustang cruised above the spectators accompanied by the futuristic looking F-22 Raptor. Against the backdrop of a carefully chosen music this technological pastiche created a powerful impression. The passing of a legacy from one generation to another.

It was symbolism of this scene that made it moving. As the old WW2 fighter sputtered across the blue and white skies, it brought the image of a baby whale followed by its mama back to my mind. Although in this case the roles were reversed. An elderly parent was gently supported by a grown up child on the way to the store. At this one moment the clouds seemed to form an invisible bridge connecting two parallel Universes. Two slices of the spacetime merged into one.

I wondered what the mechanics who worked on that plane during the second World War would have thought of this image. They'd probably try to squeeze a tear forming in the corner of their eye.



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