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Sir Victor Goddard: A Flight through Time

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Sir Victor Goddard’s trip into the unexplained involved an airplane flight. This was a much more personally harrowing experience.

In 1935, while a Wing Commander, Goddard flew a Hawker Hart biplane to Edinburgh, Scotland, from his home base in Andover, England, for a weekend visit. On the Sunday before flying back, Goddard visited an abandoned airfield in Drem, near Edinburgh, this location being closer to his final destination than the airport at which he landed. The Drem airfield, constructed during the First World War, was a shambles. The tarmac and four hangars were in disrepair, barbed wire divided the field into numerous pastures, and cattle grazed everywhere. It was now a farm, and completely useless as an airfield.

On Monday, Goddard began the flight back to his home base. The weather was dark and ominous, with low clouds and heavy rain. Goddard was flying in an open cockpit over mountainous terrain without radio navigational aides or cloud flying instruments. Rain beating down on his forehead and onto his flying goggles badly obscured his vision. He thought he could climb above the clouds, but he was wrong. He made it to 8,000 feet, looking for a break in the clouds. There was none.

Air Marshal Sir Victor Goddard

Suddenly Goddard lost control of his plane. It began to spiral downward. He struggled with the controls. He could speed up or slow down, but he could not stop the spin. He was unsure of his location, but knew he was falling rapidly and might smash into the mountains before coming out of the clouds. The sky became darker, the clouds turning a strange yellowish-brown. The rain came down even more heavily. Goddard’s altimeter showed he was only a thousand feet above the ground and dropping rapidly. At two hundred feet and still spiraling downward, he began to see a bit of daylight through the murky gloom, but his spiral toward seemingly inevitable death was far from over.

Goddard was now flying at 150 miles per hour. He emerged from the clouds over “rotating water” that he recognized as the Firth of Forth. He was still falling. Suddenly, he saw directly before him a stone sea wall with a path, a road, and railings on top of it. The road seemed to be slowly rotating from left to right. The cloud cover was down to forty feet. Goddard was now flying below twenty feet and was within an instant of tragedy. A young girl with a baby carriage ran through the pouring rain. She ducked her head just in time to avoid Hart’s wingtip. Goddard succeeded in leveling out his plane after that. He barely missed striking the water after clearing the sea wall by a few feet.

He was now flying only several feet above a stony beach. Fog and rain obscured all distant visibility, but Goddard somehow located his position. He identified the road to Edinburgh and soon was able to discern, through the gloom, the black silhouettes of the Drem Airfield hangars ahead of him, the same airfield he had visited the day before. The rain became a deluge, the sky grew even darker, and Goddard’s plane was shaken violently by the turbulent weather as it sped toward the Drem hangars-and into a different world.

Suddenly, the sky turned bright with golden sunlight. The rain and the farm had vanished. The hangars and the tarmac appeared to have somehow been rebuilt in a brand-new condition. There were four planes lined at the end of the tarmac. Three were standard Avro 504N trainer biplanes; the fourth was a monoplane of an unknown type-the RAF had no monoplanes in 1935. All four airplanes were bright yellow. No RAF airplanes were painted yellow in 1935. The airplane mechanics were wearing blue overalls. RAF mechanics never wore anything but brown overalls when working in hangars in 1935.

It took Goddard only an instant to fly over the airfield. He was only a few feet above the ground-just high enough to clear the hangars-but apparently none of the mechanics saw him or even heard his plane. As he sped away from the airfield, he was again engulfed by the storm. He forced his plane upward, flying at 17,000 feet and then, for a time, at 21,000 feet. He managed to return to his home base safely.

Goddard felt elated when he landed. He then made the mistake of telling fellow officers about his eerie experience. They looked at him as if he were drunk or crazy. Goddard decided to keep silent about what had happened to him. He did not want a discharge from the RAF on mental grounds.

In 1939, Goddard watched as RAF trainers began to be painted yellow and the mechanics switched to blue coveralls. The RAF introduced a new training monoplane exactly like the one he had seen in his flight over Drem. It was called the Magister. He learned that the airfield at Drem had been refurbished.

Another twenty-seven years went by, but Goddard never forgot what had happened. He played it through over and over in his mind. It was not until 1966 that he wrote of this experience. Over the years he had become convinced that there was no way he could have known that the RAF would change the colors of their trainers and their mechanics’ overalls four years before these changes took place. Goddard finally concluded that he must have glimpsed the future-or even traveled into it-for a brief moment in time. Via

FATE Magazine 2001 – 2002

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