Warbirds are grounded in man’s violent history (The Long View)

0
566
Pat Grime copy.jpg

A sonically strident weekend in my neighborhood, as a local airport was the stage for “Thunder Over Michigan,” described as…” one of America's leading air shows and… considered the best ‘warbird’ show in America.”

That same airport is home to the Yankee Air Museum, a labor of love by volunteers, which shows and flies a number of vintage military aircraft. Because they hanger just down the road, old bombers are sometimes seen lumbering lazily over the county or buzzing city parades.

A sonically strident weekend in my neighborhood, as a local airport was the stage for “Thunder Over Michigan,” described as…” one of America's leading air shows and… considered the best ‘warbird’ show in America.”

That same airport is home to the Yankee Air Museum, a labor of love by volunteers, which shows and flies a number of vintage military aircraft. Because they hanger just down the road, old bombers are sometimes seen lumbering lazily over the county or buzzing city parades.

This weekend, however, saw aloft all of the local ancient flying crates plus some of those kept by other air antique aficionados. Thus, the weekend skies were a beautiful backdrop for B-17s, B-24s and 25s, P-38s, 40s, and 51s, and other flyers of World War II and after.

I imagined being with my father's generation overseas, hearing the throbbing, guttural engine sound as these old prop planes gracefully arced over my home. What must it have been like to hear scores of those motors throbbing from just out of sight toward military or infrastructure targets across Europe?

If you were on the same side as the squadron soaring toward you, perhaps that sound thrilled you with hope. If you were the enemy, maybe your pulse quickened as you took what shelter could be found. If you were an innocent bystander, I guess you just prayed the nightmare would be over soon.

Even more striking were the air show performances of the USAF's Thunderbirds. This squadron of F-16s demonstrates precision formation flying and just plain shows off the raw, awesome (that’s “raw-some”) power of the world’s biggest military budget and most advanced hardware.

To be in the presence of fighter planes is gob-smacking. Watch them ascend thousands of feet in just a few seconds, their noses pointed straight up, then marvel as they gracefully scream across the heavens, touching opposite horizons in a few blinks of the eye, the roar of turbocharged engines hitting your ears from what seems like 3 seconds behind where your eyes see the planes. The ground beneath your feet trembles a little, as do your insides.

These sounds, too, made me think. How terrifying it must be in some field of conflict to hear those engines, knowing the instrument of death that makes those sounds has arrived above you before its noise.

How horrible to hear these sounds, then, for civilians trapped in war zones like Gaza, where the Israeli military flies F-16s, or in the Sudan, where MiG fighters thunder over villages and refugee camps. How horrible for noncombatants in Syria, where the sound of MiG fighters and helicopter gunships heralds the arrival of indiscriminate death, and how awful for Ukrainian civilians who suffer deadly aircraft sorties while regional powers jockey for power.

With all of humanity’s advanced weapons around the world, the echo of technological capability and money being made is so resounding, you almost cannot hear the cry of human suffering.

Pat Grimes, a former South Bay resident, writes from Ypsilanti, Mich. He can be reached at pgwriter@inbox.com

Warbirds are grounded in man’s violent history (The Long View)