VOL. 12 January ISSUE YEAR 2011

Off the Beaten Track

in Vol. 12 - January Issue - Year 2011
How Time Flies!

I had settled down comfortably at a window seat, my favorite, on the train taking me to my next business meeting. My newspaper, my music, everything was at hand. A quick glance left and right. My fellow passengers didn’t seem like the types who would force unwanted conversation upon me. Perfect, almost too good to be true! It was. I was just beginning to enjoy the view of the countryside in the lowering sunlight when that two-tone signal on my mobile phone, sounding so much like a doorbell from the 1960’s, informed me that I had received a new e-mail.

It was a very brief message, concise and to the point. The Chief Editor of MFN magazine was asking me to make my next Off The Beaten Track column a bit different, something to celebrate the publication’s tenth anniversary. Ten years for the magazine and exactly five years since I started writing this column. What did he mean by making it a bit different? I read on. I was supposed to do a sort of review of all the past columns, telling which ones I was most fond of and where I got the ideas that inspired them. Good heavens, was it already time for recollections? Where would I start and, besides, would readers find it interesting?

A good number of the articles have been about aviation history, usually focusing on some little-known pioneer who helped to turn aviation into the modern technology which it is today. This comes from my personal and professional interest in the subject, but also from the fact that a good number of our readers are working for industries which are related in some way or another to aviation and to aerospace. And so, from the earliest powered flights at the beginning of the twentieth century, from Wilhelm Kress to Feng Ru, from Melville Murrell to Alberto Santos-Dumont and Juan de la Cierva, and on to four brave young men who completed the first U.K.-to-Australia flight in twenty-eight days, the single tiles of the mosaic fall into place, providing the author with some fascinating research material and the reader with, hopefully, some interesting reading. With their enthusiasm and, often, deep sense of national pride, various colleagues and clients around the world contributed the ideas for many of these historical aviation articles, while other sources of inspiration are simply a consequence of one field of research leading to another.

Some inventions transcend the field of aviation and are important for the profound impact which they’ve had on the progress of humanity in general. And so the articles on the steam engine, the barometer, the telescope, the mechanical clock and the compass, just to name a few, seemed like natural candidates to appear in a technical magazine such as MFN.

A few of the articles reflect my personal interest in history and languages, but, I began to realize as I watched the passing landscape from my train window, all of them ultimately involve travel or movement of some sort, whether it’s the migrations of peoples across continents or Marco Polo traveling along the Silk Road on his way to the court of Kublai Khan.

All well and good, but how was I supposed to turn these thoughts and memories into a coherent and interesting article? My musings were interrupted by the screeching sound of the train’s brakes as we pulled into a station. Several hours had gone by and I was no closer to working out a plan than when I had received my Chief Editor’s e-mail at the beginning of my journey.

Did I say journey? Maybe that’s the common denominator. Perhaps our common desire to learn is stimulated by our travels to foreign countries and by our contacts with different peoples. Perhaps that explains why every time I get on a plane or a train, I still feel the same fascination that I felt as a child, when I took my very first flight on a Super Constellation. The journey continues!

By Giovanni Gregorat, Contributing Editor MFN & Sales Manager, Pometon Abrasives

Author: Giovanni Gregorat