The Pilot

Dr. Larry J. Crabb (
Thu, 11 Jan 1996 16:17:14 -0600

To all Members of the WW-I newsgroup:

This may sound corny, but sometimes when I'm alone walking around and
admiring my WW-I R/C models, I lean over and peer through cabane struts to
see what the pilot sees over the Spandaus and Vickers. Often during these
nostagic trips, I try to imagine what it must have been like to fly one of
these fabulous airplanes in the Great War and how those pilots felt.
Especiallly, those hundreds who spun to the earth in flames. I suppose my
imagination got the best of me one rainy, cold night and I wrote this poem.
I often wonder if other WW-I Modelers ever feel the way. And, if there are
those of you who do, I'd like to share this with you.


The Sopwith Camel flew through the fog,
As the Pilot carefully checked his log.
He knew he always stayed on his course
Because he was driven by an invisible force.

By the gentle soft touch of a magician's wand
A brilliant sunset appeared from beyond.
And through the strobe of propeller blade
Colors danced before him all on parade.

He was ten degrees from the setting sun
With his RPM's set at thirty-one,
He seldom checked his dash-board dials,
Knowing he'd traveled a million miles.

The Pilot stared into the distant west
Wishing his day would come to rest.
But there would be little rest for him
Long after that brilliant light would dim.

The head-winds, now reduced somewhat,
Allowing him time his course to plot.
With altitude one-thousand feet,
This voyage through air he'd ne'er complete.

He settled back in the cockpit seat
And drowsed a bit to the pistons' beat.
The fuel gage he never checked.
It was always full, so what the heck?

Dozing fitfully for over an hour,
Without regard to the engine's power,
The Pilot dreamed of a smooth runway
As the night soon quickly replaced the day.

It was always the same, like a metronome,
That he dreamed of his long-lost aerodrome.
If only he could land his plane,
Then never again would he complain.

Upon awakening his hopes were dashed,
Recalling in sorrow that day he had crashed.
If only then he had prayed aloud,
Instead of cursing God's stormy cloud.

That storm had racked his frail biplane,
And lightening had struck the wing's cabanes.
The upper wing had perilously held on,
But a moments later, it was swiftly gone.

Spinning downward toward earth he went,
While shouting and screaming his bitter contempt!
Contempt against the things he'd miss,
And all the women he'd never kiss!

And just before the plane met ground
His face contorted into a frown!
He'd cursed the Lord who gave him life
And bitterly damned Him for all his strife!

Regretting now that utterance he had said
The Pilot engaged in many prayers, instead.
"I'm sorry, dear Lord, for all my sins.
Please let me land where death can begin!"

His mind then shifted to dream out of time,
When listening to his engine purr and whine,
And sensing the smell of castor oil;
When they all had caused his excitement to boil.

The Pilot thought back to that bitter day
And what had occurred just after their foray.
He thought of his buddies; fine fliers all
Then began at the beginning and all he recalled.

He remembered shaking his mechanics hand
Just prior to mounting his Camel so grand.
Then his mechanic gave his prop a twirl
And he sped down the runway to save the world.

With propeller flickering in the morning light,
The wind and exhausts were his pure delights.
Flying formation with his squadron pals
Was a feeling even greater than the law allows.

With his scarf tied tightly around his face
He felt free as a bird in time and space.
They had now passed the trenches so far below
The Pilot began searching for Jerries in a row.

On the vast horizon far to the east
The sun began rising and quickly increased.
Then, the wings of the plane where his leader sat
Began dipping and wriggling this way and that.

The Pilot then spied the enemy below
Sure enough, he saw the Jerries in a row.
He counted four Pfalzes and one Albatros
So clearly defined by their Maltese cross.

All five of his squadron went into their dive
To see which ones would come out alive.
With Vickers guns blasting and guy wires screaming
The enemy quickly began their own scheming.

A dogfight ensued with bullets splattering;
Some hit his fabric while others not mattering.
The Pilot banked quickly out of his reach
Refilled his guns and closed the breach.

The Albatros loomed in front of his sights
Twisting every which way to avoid a fight.
Hanging on his tail as his quarry flew higher
The Pilot riddled his plane 'til it caught on fire.

Accomplishing his goal, he looked for others
But found himself alone and saw not another.
He reversed his course to return to home
Not knowing then, he'd ne'er find his aerodrome.

Completely devoid of his former rages.
He awoke from his dream and checked his gages
He focused his eyes on a black-faced dial
Thus, confirming his flying mile after mile.

The Pilot's continued state of confusion
Had left him with but one conclusion:
"As long as these gages tops their domes,
My God will never bring me home!"

The darkness had come so very fast,
But then, every day was like the last.
Then, out the cockpit he suddenly gleaned
A distant beacon of brilliant green!

Rubbing his goggles with his oily sleeve.
He looked again, but couldn't believe.
Could it actually be a landing field,
Or am I seeing things that are so unreal?

He quickly checked his instruments just so,
And found that all his systems were go.
The Pilot held his breath and joy-stick steady
Hoping that this time the Lord was ready.

As the rotating beam grew brighter still
His feelings turned to one of great thrill.
He began his drop, then circled slowly
Praying to the Lord and everything Holy.

Leaning forward from his cracked-leather seat,
He leveled off at two-hundred feet!
Then runway lights appeared up ahead,
And the closer he got the greater they spread.

With his 1 F. 1 in perfect alignment,
He prayed that this was his final assignment!
He pretended that if he landing real nice,
That God might award him with Paradise.

The modern aerodrome was clearly in view
And everything seemed to be right on cue.
But just before he cleared over some trees
The elevator cables began to freeze.

Instead of seeing the flaring of the nose
The Pilot stared at the ground as it rose.
And when he impacted on the earth
The Pilot experienced a newborn birth.

This Flying Dutchman from World War I
Had finally reached his own setting sun.
For humility and contriteness is, after all,
What God in heaven demands of us all.

- Larry Crabb

The Pilot
Copyrighted - 1983
By Dr. Larry J. Crabb