Tuesday, April 17, 2012

High, Flying Adored

This made the national news, right?  The oldest and most venerable of the space shuttles, Discovery, was flown today from Florida to its final resting place at the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum's Hazy Udvar Center, out by Dulles airport.  This kind of thing does not usually keep much of my attention, but this time, it did.

My father has held a life-long fascination with all things airborne, or at least, all mechanical things airborne. 
Dad circled the globe as head of
Lockheed's commercial L-1011 program
He fast-talked his way into a supervisory position at Lockheed in Atlanta, back in the early 50s, and he spent the rest of his professional life with the company.  Earlier, he had begun training as a pilot, but WWII ended before he ever earned his wings.  But throughout his life, he has had a continuing interest in airplanes and other flighty vehicles.

When my father turned 80, my sisters, stepmother, and I pooled some resources and donated some money to the Hazy Udvar Center, which was trying to remain part of the Smithsonian Institute's array of museums, though it was located 30 or more miles away from the National Mall, where most of the Smithsonians are perched. 
In exchange for certain donations, the museum was erecting a wall which would showcase the engraved names of people who were important in the aerospace industry over the years.  My father can be counted as one of those men, as he spent a lifetime at Lockheed, and headed the company's only commercial airplane division.  We presented Dad with his surprise one Christmas, and about 6 months later, we all gathered at the Hazy Udvar Center to view our father's name, permanently engraved on the wall.

I was thinking of all that today, when the shuttle Discovery was swooping down over the White House, the Capitol, and the other monuments on the national mall. 
I had forgotten the flight was taking place, and was on highway 395, headed across the Potomac into Virginia, when the huge jumbo jet and its backpack loomed ahead of me.  All the drivers slowed, and then stopped, to watch this historic moment.  The plane(s) had dipped to about 1500 feet, which seemed close enough to touch.  It was a serene moment, and I wished Dad had been sitting in my passenger seat to witness it.