From Flying Boat to Flying 'Castle'

By Martin Weil

May 2016

I have four recollections to tell you about.

1) Early in World War II, I would occasionally see the four-engine Pan Am Clipper, the flying boat, take off from LaGuardia Field in Queens, N.Y. It was a sight in itself, but it was only years later that I learned how many people important to the war effort were being carried across the Atlantic to Britain by the Clipper. Little did we suspect at the time. I think Churchill was once flown eastward across the ocean on a Clipper. But in '42 or '43, the mere sight of that giant plane taking off was a wonder.

2) Early in the war, a model of the B-17 was available in stores for about a dollar. It required that the parts all be glued together and was made by a firm in Moline, Ill., with a name that was something on the order of Strombecker ... it was something that was fun to put together and to think about.

3) The dad of a good friend had been a B-17 pilot during World War II. His own father was an immigrant from Europe. Although most of us knew the B-17 as the Flying Fortress, to the pilot's immigrant dad it was a "Flying Castle." Close enough.

4) In 1959, I flew from New York to California on a one-stop Boeing 707. It was the first or second year it was in service, and it was a remarkable and memorable flight. Left New York in the morning and was in California by midafternoon. It compressed time and space in a way that seemed like magic.