The first time I was close to an operating jet aircraft engine was when my grandfather arranged for us to visit the F-86 production line in El Segundo in 1952 while the Korean war was still going on and there was still a need to crank out these fighters as fast as possible. (By the way, the site is today the southern part of LAX.)
My grandfather knew one the F-86 project engineers, who gave us a guided tour of the production line himself. The compact and jammed final assembly line flowed from east to west, completed aircraft being towed out by handtruck through large hangar doors that faced the Pacific Ocean.
As we were walking out of the hangar onto the apron where the completed aircraft were parked, I heard the magical sound of an F-86 to the south of us spooling up. After the engine was up to speed, and after a short wait, the aircraft moved out, turned north and taxiied right by us not fifty feet away.
The noise was deafening but wonderful. I closed my ear flaps with my fingers, my eyes riveted to the bright red helmet of the test pilot. He taxiied the aircraft to the runways that North American shared with the civil airport, turned east, and I don't know what happened after that because we went back into the hangar and up into one of the production offices, where we couldn't hear much.
Oh yes ... I forgot to mention the wonderful odor of burnt kerosone.
It's interesting to me how we don't know at the time that certain images -- visual, tactile, aural -- are going to stay with us for life. This is one of the most vivid ones. I was ten at the time but I still think of this happy afternoon every time I look at the 1/144 scale model of an F-86H on the shelf of a bookcase behind me.
Edited by xxmikexx