“We pray for one last landing
On the globe that gave us birth;
Let us rest our eyes on fleecy skies
And the cool, green hills of Earth.”
At last, one proper Sherlock Holmes London evening, the unmistakable smell of gas came to Pirate from a dark street lamp, and out of the fog ahead materialized a giant, organlike form. Carefully, black-shod step by step, Pirate approached the thing. It began to slide forward to meet him, over the cobblestones slow as a snail, leaving behind some slime brightness of street-wake that could not have been from fog. In the space between them was a crossover point, which Pirate, being a bit faster, reached first. He reeled back, in horror, back past the point – but such recognitions are not reversible. It was a giant Adenoid. At least as big as St. Paul’s, and growing hour by hour. London, perhaps all England, was in mortal peril!
—-Thomas Pynchon, Gravity’s Rainbow
I moved across the cold, wet, foggy city after work. Tired, yet glad the workday was done and I had someplace to go, even if it was only a weekly bookstore discussion of the giant, confusing tome, Gravity’s Rainbow. As I walked from train to streetcar at the midpoint of my journey I looked up at the fog-shrouded tower and thanked the moment of beauty.
I had a very busy day planned for today – work in the morning, appointments in Richardson at two, Frisco at three, and Plano at six. Still, there was a gap in there and I found out that there was a chance to go see the Solar Impulse out at DFW Airport before it flies to St. Louis.
Solar Impulse is a Swiss solar-powered aircraft, now on a tour of the US. I had eagerly watched it on the news as it flew from San Francisco to Phoenix and then on to Dallas/Forth Worth. I really wanted to see it in the air, but that requires timing and time I don’t possess, so I had to settle for a visit to the hanger.
I carefully plotted my driving around the city and arrived at the airport early. We took a shuttle bus from the designated parking area to a large temporary hanger where the aircraft was displayed.
Even grounded inside a tent-like hanger it was an amazing sight. It is a huge monster of an aircraft, especially when you consider it only holds one person. With its incredible wingspan and delicate construction it has a look of gentle grace and efficiency that is obvious even when it isn’t moving. I wandered among the onlookers, snapping photos, talking to the crew that was hanging around, and then simply looking, trying to soak up as much of the uniqueness and innovative spirit that I could.
It is something that, under idea conditions, can fly forever – charging its batteries by day. It’s only limits are the weather conditions and how long the pilot can go without sleep. There is no beauty more sublime and powerful than that of something that works so well and so perfectly.
I’m wondering when it will be able to leave. Obviously, it requires still air conditions to take off and the southern gale force winds that have been rocking the area show no signs of abating. It was a strange contrast – the delicate plane, resting peacefully, while a constant howling and snapping din slammed around it – caused by the terrific wind whipping the fabric of the temporary hanger into a frenzy. The sound was so loud that it almost drowned out the thundering roar of the jets taking off from the runway next to the hanger.