High Flight

By: Anne Corke

Sep 08 2011

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Category: Life stories, Rural Landscapes

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A late summer evening sky, an ultralight swoops over the house and turns west. Living near the airport, we see quite a variety of aircraft coming and going. Although Peterborough no longer has scheduled passenger service, it’s still a busy airport. A lot of the traffic consists of private planes, but we also see small jets, some arriving for refit at Flying Colours, some with parts for GM Oshawa, and now and then, a charter transporting a VIP, no doubt a sports or entertainment celebrity. We see the helicopters of the air ambulance service flying towards the hospital and back again, taking critical patients to the special facilities and doctors that they need. And occasionally a Hercules from CFB Trenton will visit to practice “touch and gos”. Last spring, we even had a Sopwith parked on the apron! I love planes. One of my first childhood homes was on Crumlin Sideroad right opposite the airport in London, Ontario. My grandmother would walk over to the perimeter fence with me, to make sure I crossed the road safely, and together we would watch the planes taking off and landing. The largest planes at the airport in those days, the turboprop Viscounts and Vanguards of Trans Canada Airlines (the predecessor of Air Canada), would seem positively primitive today. On transatlantic flights, these old beasts had to stop to refuel in Gander before heading out over the ocean! In my teens, we lived in Ottawa. Quite often, for a Sunday afternoon outing,  we would drive to the airport where we could sit in the snack bar sipping tea and watch the aircraft arriving and departing. Of course, those were the innocent days, before hijackings and terrorists, when you could wander around the airport at will. Nowadays, non-passengers would be hard-pressed to find anywhere in an airport where you can even see the planes. (In September 1970, just days before I was due to leave for England, three aircraft were hijacked and forced to fly to the Jordanian desert where they were blown up after the hostages were released. My mother was understandably nervous about my trip, and so was I! But even then, security was not severe. My bags were searched before they were loaded on the plane. And I had to identify them when I changed planes in Montreal… quite a difference from the procedures in place today!) Now, more than fifty years after Crumlin Sideroad, I once more find myself living near an airport and that suits me just fine. I watch the planes flying over our house, gaining altitude as they head west following take off, or descending as they begin their turn for final approach for landing. Even the smaller aircraft are fun to watch. Last night, there was a bright red biplane zipping noisily about that beautiful sky. (Wish I’d caught him with the camera!) And, the last time we had an airshow in Peterborough, we got out the lawn chairs and watched the Snowbirds from the end of our driveway! I love to fly, too, but unfortunately, there’s little room for that in my retirement budget, so I’ll have to make do with watching the planes and dreaming of the far away places they might visit, just like that little girl in London!

Copyright 2011 Anne Corke

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