How did I turn into a ground-bound wing nut?
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I grew up a little over 1 mile (~5,700 ft) from the end of runway 24L of Cleveland Hopkins International Airport, moved in when I was about 5 years old and didn't leave the neighborhood permanently for over 20 years.
I remember clearly the day we moved in. My bedroom had two windows from which you could see the planes coming in to land. I did not know that. I stood looking out of the window and watched a jet coming in. The nose was white with a solid black circle in the center. I watched the circle grow until I suddenly realized that we were all about to die. i wasn't clear on the exact mechanics of the method of death, but I was absolutely convinced that I would never see my 6th birthday.
That thing was loud, louder than anything I had ever imagined. I think they were about 300 ft to 500 ft up at that point. The building shook and I could not hear my own screaming as I ran downstairs in tears to say goodbye forever to my mother.
Mom said the usual motherly stuff which amounted to telling me to chill and go change my shorts. And hey, we were still alive. Maybe I'd get that cool toy car for my 6th birthday after all. Then I heard another airliner approaching.
i ran back upstairs and watched, enchanted.
And at that moment, I was hooked for life.
I could watch as the lights came on, the landing gear and flaps came down and watch the exhaust change as the pilots tweaked the throttles. They came directly overhead most times. I had to be dragged away from my new window perch that 1st day.
Then they started taking off in our direction. It had to do with the wind direction, I think. This was before the FAA made pilots cut the throttle over populated areas during takeoffs. (What a dumb idea.) If the weather was right, the clouds acted like a huge bowl over the area and the thunder was unbelievable.
I soon learned how to lip read by watching television because every 3 minutes you couldn't hear the TV for a few seconds. Telephone conversations had a lot of 'wait a sec' moments. My dad would take us to the end of the runway and we watch the planes go over. As I got a little older, I'd go with a buddy on trips to the airport and roam around just checking everything out.
One of my first electronic kits was a crystal radio I could listen to the planes and control tower on. I could have listened to that on a tin can and a long piece of wire. Good thing, too, since that's about what the kit was.
Now I live too far away from any airports to plane watch, but being in Akron, I hope to snag a blimp ride one of these days.