OPINION

Look, up in the Sky. It’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s a drone

Bill HaglundBhaglund13@msn.com
Look, up in the Sky. It’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s a drone

It sometimes seems that you can’t turn pick up your newspaper, or turn on your television, without reading or hearing a story about drones.

They’re seemingly everywhere. We hear about the wonderful uses for drones – they’ve become an integral part of our nation’s war on terrorists around the globe. They can fly missions into enemy space and complete the dangerous reconnaissance missions without placing our brave soldiers in harm’s way, or they can fly into an enemy stronghold and deliver a lethal bomb.

Now, we’re told that at least one company has plans to use drones to deliver packages to its online customers.

While there are obviously countless good uses for drones, there are also the negatives. We’ve heard of drones flying over the White House and too near other sensitive locations in our nation’s capital. We’ve heard of drones being used by Peeping Toms. We’ve heard of drones flying into flight patterns of commercial aircraft.

Of course, those negatives have brought preventative responses in areas. On recent example of that was the Super Bowl, where drones were forbidden from the air.

With all the buzz about drones, it’s hard not to recall my own doomed flirtation with flight.

There’s a picture of me, as a little boy, sitting in my older cousin’s airplane pedal car. I’d imagine it was taken around 1946, or so, given the fact that I hadn’t yet had my first-ever haircut. Now, my cousin cherished his airplane pedal car and swore one day he would actually become a pilot. He did. In fact, he became a distinguished Air Force pilot and flew many combat missions during the Vietnam War, finally retiring as a Major General.

I’m not really sure if the pedal car provided impetus for my cousin’s later life. I know it did not for my own. That’s not to say I didn’t have a brief fling with flying.

Long before drones, youngsters could own and operate their own airplanes. They came equipped with a real engine (fueled by ether) and connected at one end of two long wires. The other end, of course, was held by the plane’s operator.

I don’t know why I wanted a plane, but I did. I don’t recall, but perhaps one of my childhood friends in Alleman had one. That certainly would have piqued my desire to own one, too.

At any rate, I must have been about 14, or so. I was old enough to earn my own money by working at the local grocery store, helping farmers bale hay all over the area (we knew which farmers paid a dollar an hour and which ones paid 35 to 50 cents), walking beans, and any number of other helpful tasks.

I worked and I saved. I have no idea what that flying model airplane cost, but I remember I worked hard and long to save enough money for the purchase. My dad was persnickety when it came to shopping. Just as he’d disliked Fort Dodge and much favored Webster City, he also preferred Ames over Des Moines. So, virtually every time my parents went shopping for anything, it was in Ames.

I remember somewhere in the downtown area was an Ames business that carried lots of hobby items like model cars. I loved shopping there while my parents were off buying whatever parents buy. It was there I spied that model plane, one that you could actually fly. The day I’d finally saved enough money and could take it home was one of the happiest days of my life.

Painstakingly, I did all the necessary assembly. I couldn’t wait to take it up to the school grounds for the first flight.

I shot ether into the engine. It fired immediately. It was then that things began to go dramatically wrong. I discarded the instructions, instead giving the wire handle a tug or two and, sure enough, the plane’s rudder went up and down. Clutching the handle, I released the plane and the propeller pulled it along the smooth gravel of the baseball infield.

I pulled the handle one way and, to my utter astonishment, the plane lifted off the ground and began its ascent. I leveled it off and began turning circles as the plane flew several circles around me.

Disaster followed. Novice that I was, I thought I could make the plane to a loop in the air. I pulled the wire. But, I pulled it the wrong way. The plane took a sudden nose dive and slammed into the ground.

Try as I may, I never could get the engine to fire up again, no matter how much ether I shot into it and no matter how much pleading I did.

Oh, well. I never did want to fly a plane anyway. I’d always bought baseball cards. That, I thought, was the hobby for me. You couldn’t crash a baseball card.