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  • Flying Boy Across the Mersey? December 16, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Flying Boy Across the Mersey?

    This interesting but very confusing passage comes from Aubrey’s wonderful Brief Lives. It is, more specifically, from the chapter on a Lancastrian mathematician named Jonas Moore who had been taught by one William Gascoigne (this becomes important). Aubrey includes several fascinating facts including the unforgettable sentence that: ‘Sciatica: [Sir Jonas] cured it by boiling his […]

    Crashing into yourself in the air?! November 14, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Crashing into yourself in the air?!

    In the recent dropping things from WW1 planes Beach ran across this bizarre little story. It appeared in a letter to the father of a British flying Corps officer and was later published in a newspaper. What the hell happened here? I had often wondered what it would be like to see a machine coming […]

    Dropping Things from Planes in WW1 November 7, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Dropping Things from Planes in WW1

    With insouciance and innocence man took to the air and then in the First World War began to fight in the air. The pilots were suicidally brave and also almost childlike in their duels. Along with the machine guns there were jokes and jests with friends and enemies alike. In this short post Beach wanted […]

    Flying Drums in Tibet July 20, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval, Modern
    Flying Drums in Tibet

    A lot of interest recently in the objects used by witches to fly: broomsticks, trees etc: Other weird flying objects, drbeachcombing AT yahoo DOT com. This brought Beach to parallel traditions, among which is the extraordinary flying drum of Tibet. An earliest, perhaps the earliest example on record follows here.  The description is of a […]

    Strange Air Battle in the Caucasus June 20, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Strange Air Battle in the Caucasus

    In volume 7 of the Seyahatname the Turkish traveler Evliya Celebi describes his travels in Austria, the Crimea and the Caucasus in 1664. 28 April of that year he had a remarkable experience in Circassia. As there is no English translation of EC we have to rely here on Carlo Ginzburg’s paraphrase of a translation […]

    Witches Walking Upside Down April 10, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Witches Walking Upside Down

    ***By an act of all too characteristic incompetence this post was pre-published yesterday, some of you may then have missed the post before on four suicides (PS some great emails on that, just need some time to put up)*** How do witches fly? By broomstick, of course. Only consider this story, which appears  in 1825 […]

    Who Needs Anti-Aircraft Guns When You Have Saints? March 7, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Who Needs Anti-Aircraft Guns When You Have Saints?

    In Norman Lewis’ brilliant, astounding Naples ’44, the British writer has many curious and memorable passages from his diary of that year. However, this is one of Beach’s favourites. At Pomigliano [north-east of Naples] we have a flying monk who also demonstrates the stigmata. The monk claims that on an occasion last year when an […]

    The Loss of the Douglas C-54-D in 1950 January 11, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    The Loss of the Douglas C-54-D in 1950

    Scores of planes have permanently gone missing since the beginnings of aviation a century ago, but almost all of these have one thing in common. They were flying over deep water or they were close to deep water when they disappeared from the radar. It makes sense: it is very difficult for a large plane […]

    A Bone-breaking Country Flight in Italy, c. 1920 December 13, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    A Bone-breaking Country Flight in Italy, c. 1920

    This early aeronautics story comes from central Italy in the 1940s. A mysterious aged man lives up in a secluded valley, a man who is spoken about in hushed terms. It seems this man is almost a wizard in terms of mechanical objects. When he was young he made a bicycle entirely out of wood, […]

    The Last of 2973 October 24, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Actualite, Contemporary
    The Last of 2973

    From June to September 1940 2937 pilots flew in RAF fighters to retain British air superiority over the Home Counties in a scrap that has been remembered by history as ‘the Battle of Britain’. Immortalized by Churchill as ‘the few’ these men have come, even more than the Dunkirk-bound BEF, to symbolise the British achievement […]

    Dowding and the Fairies! October 21, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Dowding and the Fairies!

    Hugh Dowding (1970 obit) is a British hero. It was his expert shepherding of Fighter Command in the summer of 1940 that allowed British victory against the Luftwaffe, or at least a convincing draw that could be passed off as a victory. He stands with Slim and Cunningham as one of Britain’s three great 1939-1945 […]

    Prison Breaks with Planes September 14, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Prison Breaks with Planes

    You are in prison and you have a friend with a plane. How can that plane get you out of prison? Well, at Colditz they built a glider in the castle attic; a glider that perhaps fortunately was never used. Then there are the various helicopter escapes, for which Beachcombing recommends an excellent wikipedia page. […]

    Bomber Command and War Guilt July 9, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Bomber Command and War Guilt

    One of the most terrifying statistics of the Second World War is that more died in planes flying out of British airfields than in British cities. Leaving the US out of this around 60,000 British and Dominion aircrew were killed defending British airspace or attacking enemy territory. About 40,000 British civilians, meanwhile, died in the […]

    Nashville Debutante Fights Imperial Japan May 15, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Nashville Debutante Fights Imperial Japan

    ***With thanks to Larry*** A wish-i’d-been-there moment from 1941. Cornelia Fort was a twenty-three-year-old pilot and instructor flying a Cadet out of Honolulu in that year. Incredibly though CF had only been flying for a matter of months she was already deemed good enough to work as an instructor, putting a young Hawaiian through his […]

    Zombie Planes May 3, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Actualite, Contemporary
    Zombie Planes

    ***Dedicated to Ricardo*** Beach is properly modest about his knowledge of aeronautics – apart from perhaps the prehistory of flight. But he is as moved as the next man to see the spitfire test in First of the Few or (1.37.40)  or, for that matter, Corky sweating in Tales of the Golden Monkey as a […]

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