For some its a smell, for others its a song or an old film. On Friday, for me it was the sound of an aircraft engine.
Sat in the office at home, windows open, rather stressed with a host of unrelated issues - I hear this sound. It was different from all the small engined aircraft that fly in to Blacksburg. The sound was distinctive - the hairs on the back of my neck stood up. I knew that I had heard it before, but where?
Then it all came flooding back. The sound I had recognized was a V12, 27 litre, 1,695 hp Rolls-Royce Merlin engine. The supercharger makes a guttural whistling in tight turns - once heard you never forget. Mounted on Battle of Britain single-engined fighters, the Spitfire and Hurricane, it is one of the most iconic aircraft engines ever built.
But what was a Merlin doing playing its sweet music over Southwest Virginia? Surely it wasn't a Spitfire? I raced to the door and scanned the skies, but the aircraft quickly dissappeared and I was left wondering what it was I had just heard? Then my wife called to tell me that it was military appreciation day at the football match the next day. There were two World War Two aircraft in town which would be conducting flyovers at the stadium the next day.
One of those was a P-51 Mustang. So it was a Merlin I had heard. Underpowered by the original Alison V-1710 engine during the early days of World War Two, it wasn't until it was fitted with a licensed version of the Merlin that it became the best long-ranged fighter of all time.
This Saturday, I took photographs of 'Cincinatti Miss' at the airport and listened to it circling the town before opening the throttle and heading over the stadium at half-time.
My father was stationed at RAF Scampton where the Battle of Britain memorial flight flew from in the early 1970's and he dragged both my brother and I to many airshows where they performed. Hearing the Merlin engine above the countryside was a regular occurrence, so I guess that's why I have never forgotten that sound, and on Friday it brought back so many memories.