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In my column last week, I ended our flight of fancy in the late 1930s with our DC3 having just taken off from Harbor Field in Baltimore.

As the plane banks, you can see boats in the harbor. A certain 13-year-old is chattering away, glued to the window.

"Oh, look! There's Edmondson Avenue, I know it's so ... there's streetcar tracks in the mid ... Hey! There's Ellicott City ... there's a Red Rocket crossing the bridge. Oh, wow!"

That boy on his first flight is sharing the joy of discovery with his father.

Suddenly, all outside vision is gone as waves of gray mist and water droplets streak across the windows. A chime sounds and the stewardess is up and hurrying to the cockpit. The co-pilot lifts his headset to talk to her as she nods and closes the cockpit door.

A seat mate tells you that, most likely, she was told not to serve anything until the plane climbs above the clouds. The ride is smooth, but with no warning it's a rapid rise, then a suddenly descent. The engines are at climb power as the plane continues upward against the rising and falling thermals.

Suddenly the motors seem to go quiet. The dark gray mist is gone and replaced by an endless sea of white cloud tops stretching to the horizon.

A voice over the speaker tells us the clouds are so dark below because they cut sunlight, explaining why they are so white above. The plane chases a sun lowering in the west.

It will be light up here, but dark on the ground. (That's from a middle school science teacher sparking an interest in aviation.)

The stewardess offers a limited menu: cheese or ham sandwich; coffee or milk. For the 13-year-old, the choice is milk and cheese.

Up front, the pilots do a little sweating. Checking with both flight service and on their company frequency, they learn they'll have to navigate between two large storm cells between their position and the Pittsburgh airport. In this particular year, they have no radar, no on-board weather mapping and no moving pictorial position indicator.

Instead, pilots track a radio beam. One side of that beam broadcasts a dot-dash signal -- if they cross over they'll hear dash-dot. If they are on the beam, it's a steady tone with clicks.

Any loss of that tone will be followed quickly by pressure on a rudder pedal to get a "click" tone back. (I guess "beam me up" didn't originate with "Star Trek!")

As one pilot flies, the other tunes a new Bendix radio direction finder to the Alleghany airport signal. Bendix built that unit in Towson and became a world leader in aviation. Twenty years later, they were a client of that chatty 13-year-old passenger.

Suddenly it's dark again. The aircraft is rolling and bucking. Bright flashes of lightening illuminate the cabin. Rain is streaming across the windows. Then a clatter, as ice from the propellers is being thrown against the cabin, wing boots inflate and pieces of ice fly past the window view.

Silence is punctuated periodically by a low grunts, or females' "Oh!" as the plane drops or is blown upward by columns of fast moving air.

Then it's bright again. We've flown out of the storm clouds, and a seat mate points out Allegheny airport, which was state of the art in '37. Crews from the Depression-era Works Progress Administration cleaved it off the top of a mountain!

For some, that rough flight may have been their first and last combined! Yet for one passenger -- that 13-year-old flying with his dad -- the winds fanned a spark of interest into a burning desire for more.


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