Flying to the edge of Doomsday



September 14, 2018 - 11:00 PM

Ernie Davidson

Bob Morgan, who flew the legendary Memphis Belle in World War II, wrote in his memoirs that early in the air war B-17s returning to their bases in England occasionally drifted back over the French coast and suffered the fury of the Luftwaffe’s deadly flak. I wondered why.

Davidson volunteered to explain how navigation works, which prompted me to stop by his and wife Wanda’s rural home north of Humboldt.

Davidson pulled several sheets from a notebook and started diagramming intricacies that, when woven together, keep an airplane on the straight and narrow. He explained how latitude, parallel to the equator, and longitude, radiating from the poles and widest at equator, compose an essential grid. A navigator also has to rectify location of the North Pole with magnetic north, there being 7 (compass) degrees difference. Wind also has a role, sometimes a major one.

All that, to be true, is a simplified explanation.

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