Friday, April 16, 2010

things that fly

It's raining right now and supposed to continue raining tomorrow -- possibly changing to snow. I scheduled myself for the AM shift tomorrow partly so I could be on the beach for the flyover of vintage airplanes commemorating Augustus Herring's first flight from the Plum Island airfield. Many people think that the present Plum Island Aerodrome (2B2) on Plum Island Turnpike was the first airport, airfield, flying field, whatever you want to call it, in New England. However, the original Plum Island airfield was actually located on the island near refuge parking lot 2. Tomorrow is the 100th anniversary of the first flight there.

I've been interested in airplanes about as long as I've been interested in birds. I remember doing a project on flight for my 6th grade science class. Both the math/science of flight and the history of aviation fascinated me in those ancient days. I vaguely recall writing a book report on a biography of Glenn Curtiss around that time too. Herring worked with Curtiss before he worked with Starling Burgess so I know I'd read about him long before I associated him with my favorite tiny historic airport. Once I visited the tiny museum at the tiny airport, it clicked in my head that the wicked famous Augustus Herring (to me anyway) who flew before the Wright brothers had made a little bit of history right here on the island. That is just so cool.

Lately, it seems like I can't get away from vintage airplanes. Nancy gave me a wonderful new book for my birthday, Insectopedia by Hugh Raffles, about the relationships between humans and insects. The first section is titled Air and is all about studying (and collecting) insects that fly at high altitudes. So I open the book and the first illustrations I come to are photos of the vintage airplanes they used to collect insects in the air column over Louisiana in the 1920s. Apparently there are streams of insects moving along the migration corridors. A British entomologist, J.W. Tutt, witnessed millions of noctuid moths flying east-west alongside migrating birds (see The Migration and Dispersal of Insects in Google Books).

Vintage aeroplanes studying migrating insects alongside migrating birds... it just doesn't get any better than that.

Sure hope the rain/snow thing doesn't prevent my birding among the vintage aircraft tomorrow.

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