07 January 2013

It's a Bird! It's a Plane! No, Really, It's a Plane!

During World War Two, Britain made about 20,000 airplanes called Spitfires. They were single-seat fighter planes similar to the Mustangs built in America. Right now, there are about five of these fabulous aircraft left in existence -- but that number might change soon.

I've been following with great interest a project by a group of researchers attempting to find a cache of Spitfire airplanes buried in Myanmar during World War Two. Why they were buried seems to be a mystery, and whether they actually exist is also open to speculation. However, the researchers arrived in Myanmar Sunday to begin excavations for the 36 aircraft supposedly buried intact in wooden crates.

There's something romantic about these planes that aided the war so much -- and yet meant death for so many young men. It must have been so wonderful to look up and see groups of these planes flying overhead or in the distance.

In January 1999 I had something like that experience. I was out on the balcony of my condo watering the plants. I heard the sound of airplanes. Not the usual sound; somehow different. I always look up when I hear propeller planes because I think they are so cool. This time, however, I looked up and out to the north sky and saw a squadron of about seven Mustangs (like those pictured) flying across my field of view. They were headed to Luke Air Force Base for an air show, and in my view for about a minute. It really was one of the most thrilling minutes of my life. To see something that had not been seen (probably) since the war was amazing. This is what people saw all the time in the 1940s if they were near an army air force base -- these sleek defenders of America winging their way through a clear blue sky. Wow.

I really hope these Spitfires actually exist and can be dug up, restored and (hopefully) sent on a world-wide tour so more people can get an idea of what it was like 70+ years ago.

You can read more about the search project here.

If you want to see the pilots and the planes in action I recommend two television series: "Foyles War" and "Piece Of Cake".

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