Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of earth
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I've climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
Of sun-split clouds - and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of - wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence. Hov'ring there,
I've chased the shouting wind along, and flung
My eager craft through footless halls of air.
Up, up the long, delirious, burning blue
I've topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace
Where never lark, or even eagle flew -
And, while with silent lifting mind I've trod
The high untrespassed sanctity of space,
Put out my hand and touched the face of God.
John Gillespie Magee, Jr. 1941
Flight was composed by Pilot Officer John Gillespie Magee, Jr.,
an American serving with the Royal Canadian Air Force. He
was sent to England for combat duty in July 1941.
On September 3, 1941, he flew a high altitude (30,000 feet) test flight in a then new model of the Spitfire V. As he
orbited and climbed upward, he was struck with the inspiration
of a poem "To touch the face of God."
Back on the ground, he wrote a letter to his parents saying,
"I am enclosing a verse I wrote the other day. It started
at 30,000 feet, and was finished soon after I landed."
On the back of the letter, was his poem, "High Flight."
months later, on December 11, 1941, his Spitfire collided with
another plane over England
and Magee, only 19 years of age, crashed to his death.
Intended to replace the Avro Canada CF-100, the CF-105 Arrow was a
technical masterpiece at the forefront of aviation engineering
during its time. The Canadian government believed, however, that
the manned bomber threat was diminishing and that air defence
could be better handled by unmanned BOMARC missiles. The
contract was cancelled on February 20, 1959 while test flying
was still in progress. By then five Arrows had flown. The
government ordered all completed Arrows, related documentation,
and equipment destroyed.
Sleek, elegant, and the stuff of mythology, the Avro Arrow is still alive
in print and in memory.