Head in the Clouds

As I prepared to travel to England, I had something noted on my calendar that had nothing to do with literature or even tourism. This was the Farnborough Airshow, supposedly the largest and best event of its kind. It was going to take place in my third week at Oxford, just a couple of hours away. Naturally, I had to go.


Another student (who also hailed from an Air Force family) and I boarded a train an early Saturday morning to the nearby airport of Farnborough. We arrived well before any planes were in the air — not a bad thing, because Farnborough is as much a developer’s show as a tourist attraction. We spent our morning touring the UK Space exhibit, checking out the manufacturer-painted jetliners provided by Boeing and Airbus, and catching up on course reading next to the helicopter display.

The afternoon flying show was a non-stop series of stunts and exhibits as every sort of flying machine imaginable overflew the crowd. Highlights included a WWI reenactment, a hovering Harrier vertical-takeoff-and-landing jet, one of the last Vulcan bombers, and a Lockeed Constellation airliner. Even as we headed home a bit early to beat the crowds, we could still watch (and certainly hear) the Eurofighter Typhoon show from miles away at the Farnborough train station.

There’s really no way to construe Farnborough as remotely related to our coursework, but I’m not sure I have to. The air show was a nice break from historical sites and a chance to visit another town by way of the famous British rail system. After spending three weeks viewing Britain as a collection of historic and literary locations it was a nice change of pace to view it as it is today — a major economic and technological power.

On the Farnborough shuttle -- my first ride on a double-decker in Britain.

On the Farnborough shuttle — my first ride on a double-decker in Britain.

The graceful Lockeed Constellation.

The graceful Lockeed Constellation.

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