Classic Mysteries

A Stormy Break in Time and Space

by Brent Raynes

It was 1934. A Royal Air Force pilot, flying a Hawker Hart biplane fighter, found himself caught in a dangerous heavy thunderstorm buildup over Scotland. This was in a time before pilots had the electronics and navigational aids that they have today. Knowing generally where he was, he was guided largely by intuition and his knowledge of the landscape, cut back on his power and glided downward, carefully avoiding the blackest clouds ahead of him. He knew how easily his aircraft could be torn apart if he became caught up in the belly of a giant thunderstorm.

He was hoping to locate an abandoned airport known as Drem. He figured that if he could make it there then he could hopefully make it to safety by landing on one of it’s old and unused airstrips.

Gradually he descended through increasing turbulence, coming out beneath a boiling cloud base. He soon recognized what appeared to be familiar landmarks. If he was correct, then Drem was just ahead. Then he saw it, dead ahead, when unexpectedly, at a distance of about quarter of a mile, the dark and ominous clouds separated and the landscape below was bathed in a dazzling golden illumination.

The pilot decided to first fly over the airfield and ascertain the condition of the runway before attempting to land his plane. When he did so, he couldn’t believe his eyes, because although it was indeed Drem, it was no longer an abandoned airfield in ruins, but rather a bustling airport with hundreds of people and rows of airplanes! He had flown over at a height of only some 50 feet, thinking it odd that no one looked up at him as he buzzed the airport at such low altitude. He made a second pass, again ignored by anyone on the ground. He stared in disbelief at mechanics below in blue coveralls who were working on rows of planes painted in bright yellow color. This threw him, since he knew that this had to be a training field, but the Royal Air Force trainers at that time were all painted silver. He didn’t see a single silver-colored aircraft anywhere.

After the pilot’s second pass the clouds lifted suddenly and so he decided to return to the sky and continued on to his original destination.

The pilot’s name was Victor Goddard and this story is said to be in the official registry of the Royal Air Force.

Martin Caidin, a professional pilot, veteran of World War II and a former FAA examiner, wrote in his book, Ghosts of the Air: “In 1938, with war with Germany fast becoming a reality, the Royal Air Force returned to Drem with a crash program to rebuild the airfield and transform it into a top-priority, top-quality training installation. Soon Drem was a major RAF training base, and when it opened for full operation, the color scheme of all the RAF trainers was changed from silver to yellow.”