Wednesday 2 May 2012

Thursday Pitch - Airborne

Us kind folk here at ColumnShift Media often sit around scratching our heads about what to write about next. Naturally, we are always on the lookout for cool things that scoot along on terra firma - race cars, street cars, bikes and what have you. But I feel that we have overlooked one of mans greatest achievements - strapping a set of wings to an internal combustion engine and taking to the skies.

For many, aircraft are a natural progression from the world of automobiles. Virtually limitless speed (SR-71 Blackbird 3500+km/h), altitude (Lockheed Martin U-2 70,000+ft) and general air tearing awesomeness (General Dynamics F-111), aircraft can inspire and awe even the most boring of individuals.

We all know that the Wright Brothers were the first to invent and fly a plane (well, pretty much) and we also know that aircraft have come a hell of a long way since then. To most, the thought of flying means cramming yourself into a cigar with wings and drinking as many beers as you an on the way to your destination, but for the lucky few, it means going to work everyday and taking to the skies, be it in a passenger plane, an air force jet or even a crop duster.

Whilst aircraft are forever becoming more modern, like cars and bikes, the cool stuff happened in the good old days. The three aircraft I mentioned above are all designs from the 1950/60's, with the speed and altitude figures having yet to be broken by modern conventional aircraft. Whilst an F22 Raptor may be the latest and greatest, in a midair drag race, the SR-71 Blackbird would eat it for lunch (not before catching fire and crashing, probably). The Lockheed Martin U-2 would be soaring 21 kays high in the sky, far too high for an F22 Raptor to even think about trying to shoot it down (easier if you are Cuban and own a Soviet missile).

Going back even further and getting to the point of this story, is the Supermarine Spitfire. The Spitfire was designed to take on the relentless might of the German Luftwaffe in World War Two, most notably coming to the fore in the Battle of Britain in 1940. With it's 2000+ horsepower V12 Merlin engine, and it's highly advanced airframe, the Spitfire was faster, more agile and could fly higher than any aircraft the Nazi's had at the time, thus securing a decisive victory the the British RAF and it's Allies.

Regarded by many as the most beautiful aircraft to take to the skies, these days, the Spitfire commands a high level of respect and an even higher price tag. Rumour has it, that a squadron of 20 Spitfires is buried somewhere in a Burmese jungle, hastily buried by the Allies in fear of the Axis powers getting a hold of their precious secret weapon after they had retreated. Which is why British national and aviation enthusiast, David Cundall has spent near on his entire life and life savings on trying to turn this rumour into a reality.

Luckily for him, he's done it. Preliminary digging has found that these aircraft are still in their original shipping containers, wrapped in their original wrapping, just waiting to be dug up. Initial reports on the condition of the actual aircraft are sketchy - some think that the precautionary measures of wrapping the airframes in wax paper and a decent coat of grease will have preserved these planes as if they came off the production line yesterday. others aren't so sure. Regardless, even if these planes are nothing but a pile of rusted sheet metal and bolts, this find is yet another link added to the chain of our ever deteriorating past.

And for that, we should be grateful.