Thursday, August 5, 2010

"Gone West" - missing man

I learned a new term today. When I was teaching middle school I used to challenge my students to use "enhanced vocabulary," and today I had a flash-back to those years.

"Gone West"

to die; go west towards the setting sun; traced to WWI; traced to Mayan culture;
signifies the loss of a pilot

Pilots have a beautiful tradition when one of their own is lost, which involves having a group of pilots perform a formation fly-by overhead. As if the formation flying itself isn't enough, one pilot separates from the group, signifying a missing-man - the loss of a fellow pilot. Until yesterday I did not know that this missing-man flies west...into the setting sun.

Yesterday my husband had the honor of participating in just such a tribute, flying in formation during the laying-to-rest of Earl, a pilot, a friend, a man who perished in the plane crash in Lake Michigan nearly two weeks ago. In this instance, 4 planes participated in the event. Daryl flew lead, in Earl's plane, with an AT-6 on each side, and a Waco bi-plane in the rear. They flew in formation, over the cemetary, making a pass, south to north.

Sweeping back around, north to south, the AT-6's released their air show smoke overhead, a beautiful salute. As they completed the run overhead, the lead plane broke off, turning west, as the rest of the formation continued on course. The missing man heading into the setting sun.

So, Earl, this flight was for you...
a pilot "Gone West"

"Not alone into the sunset but into the company of friends who have gone before them."

Fly strong and swift, friend.


**We BLOG ARTISTS** said...

Very touching post...
To Earl!
HUGS and thoughts...
P.S. Thank you SO much for passing by and leaving such very sweet and endearing comments...I will treasure them.

S. Etole said...

What a great tribute ...