aviateur From United States of America, joined Apr 2004, 1350 posts, RR: 12 Posted (2 years 1 month 2 weeks 3 days 6 hours ago) and read 2420 times:
From my latest column...
Sometimes when I hear the whine of jet engines, I think of the beach.
I don't expect that to make sense to you -- unless, like me, your childhood was defined by an infatuation with jetliners * and * summers spent at a beach that sat directly below an approach course to a major airport.
That would be Revere Beach, in my case, just north of Boston, in the mid-to-late 1970s.
Then as now, the city of Revere was a gritty, in many ways charmless place: Rows of triple-deckers and block after block of ugly, two-story colonials garnished in gaudy wrought-iron. (Revere is a city so architecturally hopeless that it can never become gentrified or trendy in the way that other Boston suburbs have.) Irish and Italian families spoke in a tough, North Shore accent that had long ago forsaken the letter R. Shit-talking kids drove Camaros and Trans-Ams, the old country * cornuto * horns glinting over their chest hair.
Revere's beach was the first public beach in the United States. Like the rest of the city, it wasn't the kind of place that lent itself to niceties or sentimental descriptions. The rollercoasters had long ago burned down and the boulevard was dotted by biker hangouts and the sort of honky tonk bars and restaurants that, as a kid, you never dared set foot in, no matter how bad you needed to use the bathroom. Seagulls swooped and gorged on the garbage toppling out of overloaded barrels and dumpsters.
But it had the sand, and water that was clean enough to swim in -- with those long, flat, shimmering low tides that seemed to recede all the past Nahant and into the horizon. We spent our summers here -- nearly all of the weekends and many of the weekdays too. My parents would have the car packed by 10 a.m. I remember the folding chairs, the towels, and the endless supply of Hawaiian Tropic suntan lotion, its oily coconut aroma mixed with the hot stink of sun-baked Oldsmobile leather.
I swam, dug around for crabs and endured the requisite mud-ball fights with my friends. But for me, the real thrill was the airplanes.
Revere Beach's mile-long swath lines up almost perfectly with Logan International Airport's runway 22L, the arrivals floating past at regular intervals, so low you'd think you could hit them with one of the discarded Michelob bottles poking from the sand. I'd bring a notebook and log each plane as it screamed overhead.
They'd appear first as black smudges. You'd see the smoke -- the snaking black tails of a 707 or DC-8 as it turned final up over Salem or Marblehead. Then came the noise. Little kids -- and grownups too -- would cover their ears. People today don't realize how earsplittingly loud the older-generation jets could be. And they were low, barely fifteen hundred feet above the sand, getting lower and lower and lower until finally disappearing over the hill at Beachmont, maybe twenty seconds from touchdown.
I remember all of them: TWA 707s and L-1011s in the old, twin-globe livery. United DC-8s and DC-10s in the '70s-era bow-tie colors. Flying Tigers DC-8s and 747s. Allegheny's DC-9s and BAC One-Elevens. Eastern's 727 "Whisperjets" that did anything but whisper. And so on. I remember Braniff, Piedmont, Capitol and Seaboard World; TAP, North Central, Zantop and Trans International.
The term "regional jet" wouldn't exist for at least another decade. Instead we had "commuter planes." There was PBA and its Cessna 402s; Air New England's Twin Otters and FH-227s and Bar Harbor's Beech-99s. Pilgrim, Empire, Ransome and Downeast.
Fast forward thirty years:
The arrivals pattern to 22L hasn't changed. It still passes directly overhead Revere Beach. After I finally became an airline pilot, one of my biggest thrills was being at the controls on a 22L arrival into BOS, looking down at the same beach from which I spent a childhood looking up.
But other things are different.
The demographics of Revere and its beach have changed, for one. The Revere of my youth was a city in which pretty much every last family was Italian, Irish, or both. At the beach it was no different. Today, both the neighborhoods and the sand are a virtual United Nations of the North Shore. Those harsh, R-less accents are only a portion of the mix, joined by voices in Hindi, Arabic, Portuguese and Khmer. The muscle shirts, Italian horns and shamrocks are still there, but those sunburned Irish complexions are contrasted against those from Somalia, Ghana, Haiti and Morocco. Not long ago the idea of a black person at Revere Beach was unheard of. In fact, I remember a day -- it must have been '77 or '78 -- when word spread across the sand that a black family had staked out a blanket down near the MDC bathhouse. This was such a novelty at the time that my friends and I took the quarter-mile stroll just to look at them.
And overhead, those plumes of oily smoke are gone. The jets nowadays are cleaner, much quieter. And, thanks to the generification of the modern jetliner, they're also a lot less exciting. At age twelve I could tell a DC-10 from an L-1011 when it was ten miles out. Every plane had its own distinct profile. Today's jets are often indistinguishable, even at short range. And somehow the endless procession of A320s, 737s and regional jets just doesn't get the pulse going, or the sunbathers pointing, the way a 707 or a DC-8 would -- its motors shrieking, smoke spewing behind in a hellish black rooster tail.
Revere itself has both gained and lost character over the years. The skies above, though, have mostly just lost it.
-- Patrick Smith
Are there other readers with memories of the skies over BOS? How about other places? We should get a thread going with memoirs/blurbs of "the good old days" at various airports.
Did I mention those TWA 747SPs?
Patrick Smith is an airline pilot, air travel columnist and author
safetydemo From United States of America, joined Sep 2007, 310 posts, RR: 0
Reply 1, posted (2 years 1 month 2 weeks 3 days 6 hours ago) and read 2397 times:
Thanks for the great article. Some of my fondest (and earliest) memories are from my Grandparent's deck. From the deck I could watch all of the arrivals headed for the 22s at PIT - and at its height I would spend almost every waking moment from the time I woke up to the time I went to bed not only watching, but tracking, every arrival. USAir DC-9s, Fokker 100s, Boeing 727s, Boeing 737-200s/300s/400s, etc. Also many aircraft from other airlines. I would track everything. The type and airline, how many times the engines spooled up while I viewed them, whether they seemed high or low (relative to other approaches), etc. I loved sitting on that deck and watching the arrivals. It is, unfortunately, a whole lot quieter now and the views are mostly of regional jets - a sad state really. But I'll always have those memories of chasing my notebook paper around the deck and across the yard when the wind would catch me off guard as I was mesmerized by the latest arrival.
Please direct your attention to the flight attendants in the cabin...
N62NA From United States of America, joined Aug 2003, 4251 posts, RR: 6
Reply 2, posted (2 years 1 month 2 weeks 3 days 6 hours ago) and read 2347 times:
My beach memories were at Sandy Hook in NJ where all those 747s, DC-10s and L1011s of UA, AA, TW, EA, NA and countless international airlines floated by on their way to JFK.
Closer to home - actually at home - in tiny Morris Plains NJ we were right under the arrivals track for flights coming up from the south into EWR when they were using the 22s at EWR. Also, my house was situated in an ideal location for EWR departures headed northwest over Sparta (think UA DC-10s, DC-8s, AA 707s, Allegheny DC-9s, NW DC-10s/727s) and if that wasn't enough, all the JFK arrivals coming in from the west at about 10,000 feet (TW L1011s/747s, AA 747s/DC-10s, UA 747s/DC-10s).
ordpark From United States of America, joined Nov 2003, 565 posts, RR: 1
Reply 5, posted (2 years 1 month 2 weeks 2 days 4 hours ago) and read 1787 times:
I've posted before about my love of BOS...went to collage there from 69-73 worked for Executive and Air New England from 73-74 before being hired by United...
My memories include sitting on the wing of a DC-3, fueling it in the rain...my personal favorite...NE Yellowbirds - the emergence of DL after the merger - the 1st DL CV880 and that magnificent plume of black smoke!...screaming engines of DC-9's, 727's DC-8's...and United's 747.
BOS had some of the best observation decks in the business, unfortunately all closed now....
But my career started at Logan and you don't forget that kind of stuff
PAAPurser From United States of America, joined Sep 2008, 6 posts, RR: 0
Reply 7, posted (2 years 1 month 1 week 6 days 18 hours ago) and read 1484 times:
Thank you for the wonderful posting, which brought back so many fond memories of being an young aviation enthusiast in the Boston area. I grew up on the North Shore (pronounced “Nawth Show-a”)– on the Salem/Peabody border - and must have lived under the initial approach to Logan (at that time, maybe still today). I also recall the steady stream of jets, especially in the afternoon, when flights typically arrived from Europe. I remember 4-engine 707s, DC8s, VC10s, and 747s (the novelty of the day, for sure!) 3-engine L10s, DC10s, 72s and the rest….. from airlines representing US and world aviation markets - TWA with the twin-globe logo, the blue ball of Pan American (my future employer, but who knew?) TAP, LH, AF, BOAC, Northeast yellowbirds, National, Eastern...and the list goes on and on. For a young kid, it was fun to dream where these planes were coming from and going to…escapism on a wonderful level.
I remember a particular day, in the parking lot at the North Shore Shopping Center, when a BA 747 flew above and lowered the gear just as it passed over....quite a site in the early 70s (and may I say, even today?). I also remember the noise of an approaching plane on a summer’s day (permanently engrained) and I remember that the aircraft seemed to be flying so low….especially in inclement weather.
Your beach is my (above-ground) backyard pool! Sitting on the deck in the back yard, watching the planes on approach was what made a sublime summer day! As year’s passed, during my college commuting days (a transportation major, of course!), every Friday, it was a special treat to stop by Logan Airport for the latest version of “The Airport Journal” and stop by for lunch Kelly’s at Revere (pronounced “Ra-vee-ah”) Beach, hoping that 22L would in use that day.
At the time, Logan Airport itself was a fun place to explore, as each terminal had outdoor observation decks (The super-modern EAL terminal – since demolished - the then state-of-the-art Terminal C, the international terminal (then “D”) and the “new” control tower locations are what I remember the most and spent much time. The first place I drove when I got my Mass. drivers license was to the airport…couldn’t wait!
Through a young person’s eyes in the 1970s, the aviation industry was perceived to be full of promise, excitement, and adventure. I found and lived that adventure, through my brief career with Pan Am, taking advantage of it to the fullest, but felt (at the exact time of airline deregulation) that these heady days were waning. And wane they did—the excitement of different airlines with different perceived personalities and airplanes with beautiful profiles (is there anything more beautiful that a 727S climbing out?) are now for the scrapbooks (and TV shows!).
Fast forward 30 years: the backyard pool is long gone and another young family is enjoying our family homestead on the North Shore…whether or not the landing patterns for BOS have changed, I don’t know, but doubt it. Whether or not there is another kid who is magically transported by looking at an airliner flying overheard…one can only hope. Look for that youngster along the landing path to Logan’s runway 22L!
deltacto From United States of America, joined Mar 2009, 399 posts, RR: 0
Reply 9, posted (2 years 1 month 1 week 6 days 13 hours ago) and read 1326 times:
Quoting ordpark (Reply 5): BOS had some of the best observation decks in the business, unfortunately all closed now....
Quoting PAAPurser (Reply 7): At the time, Logan Airport itself was a fun place to explore, as each terminal had outdoor observation decks (The super-modern EAL terminal – since demolished - the then state-of-the-art Terminal C, the international terminal (then “D”) and the “new” control tower locations are what I remember the most and spent much time.
Yes! Especially the 16th floor observation deck inside the control tower!
Another great observation deck was at the old Atlanta airport - all the Delta, Eastern, Southern, Piedmont, Untited, Northwest, and TWA planes just a few feet away
PHLBOS From United States of America, joined Mar 2004, 7482 posts, RR: 24
Reply 10, posted (2 years 1 month 1 week 6 days 12 hours ago) and read 1291 times:
Quoting aviateur (Reply 3): I must have been seven years old at most. I can remember BOAC 747s, which was early '70s. I was born in '66, so....
I'm close to a year older than you and a Marblehead native and my 'first' BOS spotting experiences were with my parents (probably in our '64 Ford Country Squire we had at the time). Sometimes after grabbing a bite over at the 'original' Kelly's along Revere Beach; my family (my parents, older brother and I) would head out to a spot along Route 145 (Saratoga Street) at the East Boston side of the East Boston/Winthrop town line and watch the planes approach and land on 22L.
Quoting aviateur (Thread starter): TWA 707s and L-1011s in the old, twin-globe livery. United DC-8s and DC-10s in the '70s-era bow-tie colors. Flying Tigers DC-8s and 747s. Allegheny's DC-9s and BAC One-Elevens. Eastern's 727 "Whisperjets" that did anything but whisper. And so on. I remember Braniff, Piedmont, Capitol and Seaboard World; TAP, North Central, Zantop and Trans International.
I saw many of those along w/AA 707s & 727s, EA DC-9s, DL DC-9s & 727s were a dime a dozen as well especially right after the 1972 merger w/NE. In my very early BOS trips, I remember seeing those Yellowbird DC-9s, 727s & even the FH-227s either flying or parked at the hangar.
I remember the result of the temporary DC-10 groundings in 1979 over at BOS was scarce widebody spottings outside of an occasional TW L-1011 or an Aer Lingus 747.
One time, in 1979, while waiting to pick my father up (he was coming in on a BN flight) at Terminal E; I remember seeing this 727 in a mish-mash of colors (it was the Calder Colors scheme) taxiing in. I jokingly commented to my brother and stated, "Whoever painted that 727 must've been the same individual that painted the gas tanks along the Southeast Expressway." Even back then, I knew BN had its fleet of planes in different colors but I wasn't expecting that.
It turned out that my father's flight was indeed on BN's 'Calder Colors' 727.
My mother always like that terminal. It was the easiest one to drive in and out of. I remember seeing the EA Electras parked at north gates when one would head up the ramp to the Departures level of the Terminal. How about the old EA hangar that had "FLY EASTERN AIRLINES" light up in fire red neon.
[Edited 2012-03-03 13:05:06]
"TransEastern! You'll feel like you've never left the ground because we treat you like dirt!" SNL Parady ad circa 1981