In an effort to repress this deeply depressing thought I reached for the in-flight magazine. Only then did I realize that I was racing through the skies in a flying memorial. This was not an intuition that the plane was going to crash. It was instead based on an article entitled, "Norwegian's tail icons" (Blågestad 2011). The low-cost airline, Norwegian has opted to dedicate each of its aircraft to "famous Scandinavians". Their faces appear on the empennage (i.e. the fin or tail of an aeroplane). The list includes Roald Amundsen (1872-1928) – a memorial to whom has featured in an earlier blog posting. His entry in the in-flight magazine notes that he was "one of the greatest polar explorers of all time. The Norwegian explorer was the first person to reach both the North and South Poles" (Blågestad 2011: 110).
One person missing from this roll call of famous Scandinavians is Dénis Lindbohm (1927-2005). You've probably never heard of this Swedish science fiction writer. But he features in my own personal canon of famous Scandinavians. Lindbohm would be a doubly-appropriate candidate for a flying memorial given that he wrote Bevingaren (The Wing-Giver). It tells the tale of John. One day whilst out walking in the forest he comes across what looks like a crater left by a falling meteorite. Closer inspection reveals it to be filled with pristine, ice-cold water. Stooping down he drinks from this unearthly spring – and soon realises this fissure was formed by no shooting star. It was caused by a crash-landing spaceship. The watery remains of its unfortunate pilot enter into symbiosis with John. It teaches him things that will change not only John's life but that of everyone on the planet. For this parasitic extraterrestrial is, quite literally, The Wing-Giver. John becomes the first of a new species of para-humans. He hides this fact until the day comes when he climbs to the top of a mountain, unfolds his wings, leans ever further over the edge...
"Then gave out a sudden cry, an exultant and almost wild laugh, and flung himself forwards,
upwards, straight into the wind, beating down with his wings. And flew.
"The ground fell away as he ascended like an express elevator... He climbed like a kite in the wind.
The treetops and then the whole landscape disappeared beneath. He couldn't stop laughing in
furious jubilation. He literally threw himself upwards into the blue, blue atmosphere" (Lindbohm 1980: 44).
Blågestad, Nina (2011) "Norwegian's tail icons", Norwegian in-flight magazine, no. 4, pp. 108-111
Lindbohm, Dénis (1980) Bevingaren, Vänersborg
A flying memorial of a different and far more tragic kind took place today. The Royal Air Force Aerobatic Team - more familiarly known as "the Red Arrows" - conducted a ceremonial flypast in the skies over Chatsworth House Country Fair in Derbyshire and at a RAF Linton-on-Ouse in North Yorkshire. Both events were dedicated to the memory of Flight Lieutenant Jon Egging. He suffered fatal injuries when his aeroplane crashed during a public event that took place near Bournemouth Airport on 20th August.
The BBC reports that Flt Lt Jon Egging is to be honoured with a permanent memorial located near the scene of his fatal accident. See Anon (2011) "A Red Arrows pilot Jon Egging memorial for Bournemouth", BBC News, 22/09 accessed 23/09/2011 at, http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-dorset-15012137.