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Something Wonderful: Homemade Helicopter by 102 year old Boeing Engineer


Let me die a youngman’s death
not a clean and inbetween
the sheets holywater death
not a famous-last-words
peaceful out of breath death

When I’m 73
and in constant good tumour
may I be mown down at dawn
by a bright red sports car
on my way home
from an allnight party

Or when I’m 91
with silver hair
and sitting in a barber’s chair
may rival gangsters
with hamfisted tommyguns burst in
and give me a short back and insides

Or when I’m 104
and banned from the Cavern
may my mistress
catching me in bed with her daughter
and fearing for her son
cut me up into little pieces
and throw away every piece but one

Let me die a youngman’s death
not a free from sin tiptoe in
candle wax and waning death
not a curtains drawn by angels borne
‘what a nice way to go’ death

— Roger McGough

{ 18 comments… add one }
  • Casey Klahn March 31, 2021, 10:15 AM

    Brilliant poetry. Go hard at that idea and make it cut like a saber!

    The vid: No iPhone (some old Canon), no helmet, and 360 dpi. Old School. And then, straight up into the sky! Boeing engineers are self-memes walking. They are caricatures of themselves in all that they do. And then, this happened. I believe I pushed back a little tear watching that BE pull back on the stick.

    An old ski poster: You want air, kid? Pull my finger.

  • Ray Van Dune March 31, 2021, 10:18 AM

    That’s a gyrocopter, not a helicopter. That being said, he handles that gyrocopter with style!

  • Auntie Analogue March 31, 2021, 10:32 AM

    Right, my dear Ray Van Dune, it’s a gyrocopter, which used to be known as an autogyro, and it’s quite a marvel!

  • nunnya bidnez, jr March 31, 2021, 10:51 AM

    the gyrocopter designer/pilot:
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ken_Wallis

    ********
    In the early 1990s I went to an airshow of experimental & homebuilt aircraft, most likely it was at Brookhaven Airport HWV, on Long Island New York. I met an pilot who was 90 years old, who was demonstrating his homebuilt replica of a WW1 bi-plane. This man had been an engineer at Grumman. The plane was made of wood with fabric covered surfaces. It was a taildragger – two wheels in the front and a tiny wheel near the tail; they are notoriously difficult to control on the ground, and hard to see over the nose while taxiing due to the stance on the ground.
    I sat in the single person cockpit which was barely wider than me, but didn’t dare ask him if I could take it for a spin. Later that day I saw him make the most perfect take-off, no doubt flying to his private backyard strip near Huntington.

  • nunnya bidnez, jr March 31, 2021, 10:55 AM
  • gwbnyc March 31, 2021, 11:40 AM

    …the stuff of dreams

  • ghostsniper March 31, 2021, 2:46 PM

    Seems fairly robust for being a centenarian, as I’d like to be a long time from now.

  • Paddy March 31, 2021, 3:26 PM

    All right, that made me smile.

    Prolly made him smile too.

  • Ray Van Dune March 31, 2021, 3:58 PM

    I will just add that not every gyrocopter / autogyro has a flat-four VW (?) engine and a four-bladed wooden prop! Sucker must have a lot of get up and go!

  • Oldun March 31, 2021, 4:39 PM

    Well done that man. Most inspiring.

  • John the River March 31, 2021, 6:23 PM

    One of the most interesting people I’ve ever met was the father of a college friend. A retired Grumman engineer. At Grumman he had worked on the lunar landing module, specifically the base.

    His early life would make a great movie. Born in France, a teenager during the war, worked for the French resistance. Caught by the Germans and imprisoned. Escaped and made his way to North Africa. Send to the USA by the Free French to learn to fly fighters.
    Did so well that he was kept on as an flight instructor. Went to college after the war and went to work for Grumman.
    He was retired when I met him. He was active in a Revolutionary War reenactor group on Long Island.
    And with a group of other retired engineers was working on building a 9/10ths scale ME109 (working aircraft) when he died.

    That man lived.

  • Aggie April 1, 2021, 6:53 AM

    Not to take anything away from this terrific story, but here is the man’s obit; You remember James Bond flying Little Nellie? It was this guy, flying what he built.

    https://web.archive.org/web/20130927232529/http://www.kenwallisautogyro.com/

  • gwbnyc April 1, 2021, 6:57 AM

    follow-up, perhaps-

    sent the vid to an old pal, a pilot, sailor, etc etc. last year he sent me an iphone vid from a B-17’s bombardier nacelle flying over middletown ny.

    he reflected:

    “Great fun. Fab old guy. Benson Autogyros have been around as long as I can remember. As a kid I saw them advertised in Popular Mechanics. I always thought Igor Benson died in an autogyro accident, but, looking him up just now I learn he died in 2000 at 82 from Parkinson’s disease.”

    as always, check my math.

  • gwbnyc April 1, 2021, 7:01 AM

    your accuracy prevails, Aggie.

    appreciated.

  • captflee April 1, 2021, 10:33 AM

    As a teenager I delivered medical radionuclides (Te-143, etc.) from the RDU air freight office to various Triangle hospitals, and about every other trip would get to see a Bensen gyro flitting about, their factory being located there. My hat is off to Mr. Wallis; I’m a little chary as regards helos of any sort, but no more so than anyone who for a period had to occasionally ride around in ones supplied by the low bidder, I suppose.

  • azlibertarian April 1, 2021, 11:20 AM

    As a guy with 22,000 hours of airplane time under my belt, I’m here to tell you that there are two things that hold a helicopter in the air….
    * An item called a Jesus Nut, and….
    * Witchcraft.

  • EX-Californian Pete April 2, 2021, 9:29 AM

    On the subject of “death,” it’s my sad duty to inform Vanderleun and others in Butte County that David Feldhaus- the owner of “Underground Ammo” in Paradise (you ran a photo of his shop here a while back) passed away about 2 weeks ago. Weird thing is that I was calling Dave to let him know that our mutual friend Steve L. (who hung out at U.A.) suddenly passed away- about 2 weeks ago.

    Here’s an article about Dave & his shop from the Paradise Post a while back- https://www.paradisepost.com/2016/07/15/not-my-job-politically-incorrect-the-ridges-only-hot-shot/

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