I pick up my story back at Wendover Airport, which turns out to have an interesting history. During World War II this town was an air base with a population of as much as 20,000. Here is where the Enola Gay practiced with her crew for dropping the first atomic bomb used in war. They have a tiny museum right at the airfield, and I had time to take a look at it.
Most of the exhibits were little dioramas, like models of the Enola Gay and the airbase, and some medals and documents. My favourite was something I didn't remember hearing about before, the Norden Bombsight. In the words of the accompanying plaque, it was a mechanical analogue computer made up of gyros, motors, gears, mirrors, levers and a telescope. The bombardier would input the airspeed, wind speed and direction, altitude and angle of drift. The pilot would engage the autopilot and the computer would control the trajectory of the airplane and the release of the bomb. This device was so secret that it was installed in and removed from the airplane under armed guard last thing before and first thing after every mission. There was even an oath to be sworn before being introduced to the device.
Mindful of the secret trust to be placed in me by my Commander in Chief, the President of the United States, by whose direction I have been chosen for bombardier training... and mindful of the fact that I am to become guardian of one of my country's most priceless military assets, the American bombsight... I do here, in the presence of Almighty God swear by the Bombardier's Code of Honor to keep inviolate the secrecy of any and all confidential information revealed to me, and further to uphold the honor and integrity of the Army Air Forces, if need be, with my life itself.
I hope the pilot had better instruments than I do to provide that data, because my wind speed and direction statements would be a complete guess, especially because I expect a variation in wind speed and direction between flight altitude and the ground.
This weather limits sign served as a legacy of the training function of the airfield. A flying school today will have a supervising instructor who will examine the weather conditions and rule on whether it is suitable for flight training. This one was once controlled by a switch in the base commander's office.
I don't know where the military traffic dropping practice bombs on the restricted airspace launch from today, but they aren't here at Wendover now. The most traffic I saw looked like a weekend ultralight fly-in. I think most of them could have taken off widthwise on the runway, or launched into the air from the ramp at hardly more than my taxi speed, but they all taxied out diligently to the threshold of the most into-wind runway.