Category: Art & Culture

Tintin and planes

ImageHave a gander at these, aircraft pictures by Herge with appropriate Tintins and Snowys (of varying levels of racism/taste). Beautifully drawn though. Hitler Youth Tintin is…erm…troubling (though oddly unsurprising). ImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImage

The inexplicable popularity of British Cold War jets in Japanese animation

Who needs Bikini? We've got Grapple.

Who needs Bikini? We’ve got Grapple.

We've got 160 of these. We got them cheap from a bloke in Riyadh.

We’ve got 160 of these. We got them cheap from a bloke in Riyadh.

The shapes created on the drawing boards and in the wind tunnels of English Electric, Vickers, Avro and BAC have ended in some pretty strange places. Bryl-creemed and tweeded up, the pipe-smoking aeronautic engineers of the 50s could not have predicted the future fictional life of their creation.

We have all penned an infamous White Paper.

We have all penned an infamous White Paper.

Often piloted by overly-sexualised teenagers in spacesuits, many British Cold war aircraft have earned starring roles in Japanese cartoons. Kind of mental, but I like it. Speaking of mental, this ‘Super Lightning’ is pretty insane.

If you like Japanese aeroplanes, you’ll go crazy for this

This boundary layer control works wonders for my miniskirt

This boundary layer control works wonders for my miniskirt

My favourite colour is red. My favourite shape is the triangle. My favourite material is tin. My favourite activity is inappropriately attired skydiving

My favourite colour is red. My favourite shape is the triangle. My favourite material is tin. My favourite activity is inappropriately attired skydiving

Joe Coles & Ed Ward

If you enjoy this, have a look at the wildly luscious top ten BritishFrenchAustralianSoviet and German aeroplanes. 

Hush-kit is reminding the world of the beauty of flight.

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Vapour trail: a very short story by Polly Malone


You get off the plane.  It’s hot and your feet smell.  Baobab trees boggle your brain.  The spices hit you and your feet recede.  The guy who sat next to you is looking shifty as he moves to the airport building.  He’s not staying long, he’s only got hand luggage.  He’d talked Tory at you all the way from Nairobi and you hope he’s delayed going through customs.  You wait by the plane while your bags are hurled down.  There’s no carousel here.


Your friends asked you to bring cheese – they are starved of it.  ‘And bring extra for the people at customs.’  You can picture the scene when they open your case.  One swimsuit and forty packs of Cheddar.  Stilton by the dozen.  And Camembert.


From inside the plane had seemed small.  Now it looms above you bigger than your life.  The sun is so bright it goes right through the metal, into your mind and out the other side.  Photon feasting – yeah, that’s what you came for.  But the shade of the plane is a cradle, a grave.

Polly Malone, February 2013



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Who was Sweden’s flying farm girl?

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AV-NOSTALGIA: Those little polystyrene foam planes you used to play with..


In a world where products change by the season, it’s wonderful to have eternal things. Power Prop Flying Gliders have been the same for at least thirty years, and I suspect longer than that.  You buy an envelope, decorated with a fascinatingly naïve painting of an aeroplane. Open it and within seconds you’ve assembled a natty little World War Two fighter. After a few flights you’ll loose the small blue propeller, but that’s fine as it flies better without it. The spelling mistake ‘Eocke-Wulf’ has been immortalised and remains today (if the manufacturers are reading this, please DO NOT correct this!).

(Hang on, I’ve just checked a modern packet and it appears it has been corrected…)

The artworks were clumsy and at times bordered on being ‘outsider art’.

Hey! Number 7 should be a Spitfire! This must be a US edition.

Hey! Number 7 should be a Spitfire! This must be a US edition.

The Hawker Hurricane and Tomahawk were satanic red and appeared to be fighting in the fires of hell. The Supermarine Spitfire MK.II (sic) was the weirdest front-cover. The style is like a Vietnamese ’60s propaganda poster. Bloody splodges of explosions decorate the mountain ridge below the aircraft. The plane itself is mottled two-tone blue and is dropping two slug-like creatures (bombs?). The aircraft bears little actual resemblance to a Spitfire Mk.II and looks like an experimental Italian fighter.

Millions of these excellent toys have been produced. Gardens and pavements around the world became theatres of war, with enactments regularly foiled by cats mauling your fighter force.

Who was the artist who made these covers? Was it the work of an old man in China in the 1950s? Did he paint them in one rainy morning in a back room in Chengdu, as his wife cooked? I guess we’ll never know.  Looking at them, there is enough difference to suggest there is more than one artist at work here. I want to find out the true story behind these paintings..

Hush-kit is reminding the world of the beauty of flight.

follow my vapour trail on Twitter: @Hush_kit

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You may also enjoy A B-52 pilot’s guide to modern fighters, Flying and fighting in the Lightning: a pilot’s guideInterview with a Super Hornet pilot, Trump’s Air Force Plan, 11 Worst Soviet Aircraft, 10 worst US aircraft, and 10 worst British aircraftMiG-21s, MC-21s and the overrated Typhoon: In conversation with FlightGlobal’s Stephen TrimbleThe F-35 will fail, until the US learns to shareAn air force of my own #1Top 8 Mach 3 fighters

Magnificent Women in Their Flying Machines – AMELIA EARHART: FLIGHT FASHION by Amber Jane Butchart

Amelia Earhart with her students, 1936

Fashionable aviation in the 20s and 30s: Vogue cover (1932) by Pierre Mourgue; Ziegfeld Follies costume found at Harem of Peacocks; Vogue cover (1937) found here

In 1929 the famed aviatrix Amelia Earhart became the first president of the ‘Ninety-Nines’ organization of women pilots. This ushered in an unprecedented decade of female aviation that saw an intrepid group of women fight for equality in the sky as well as the ballot box. It was a decade in which women set speed records (Jacqueline Cochran, 1939), solo flying records (Amelia Earhart, 1935) and beat male pilots at the Bendix Trophy Race (Louise Thaden and Blanche Noyes, 1936). Names such as Amy Johnson and Beryl Markham garnered celebrity status and in Hollywood coveted aviatrix roles went to stars of the day such as Katherine Hepburn, Myrna Loy and Kay Francis.

But despite the unprecedented rise of the aviatrix, there is one to whom the fashion world repeatedly returns. Amelia Earhart was not only the first female aviator to fly solo across the Atlantic (among setting a plethora of other records) but she was also the first woman to receive the U.S. Distinguished Flying Cross. Her tall, boyish frame reminiscent of a catwalk model understandably resounds with the fashion world, and she is frequently cited as a muse for collections from Hermes to Prada.

Hermes A/W 2009: As well as the profusion of flight jackets, leathers and goggles the set also featured propellers as a backdrop and the soundtrack from Casablanca.

Amelia Earhart

Prada A/W 2011: Alongside the flight hats and goggles the dropped waists of the majority of this collection reference the decade in which Amelia first took to the skies

But Amelia did much more than just give good face (and style). Many female pilots used their public standing to advance civil rights, from Pancho Barnes who set up the first union for stunt pilots in Hollywood to Willa Brown, who as the first African-American commercial pilot helped to open the US armed forces to African American men. Earhart herself championed women’s causes through her aviation column in Cosmopolitan magazine. She was also a member of the National Woman’s Party, and an early supporter of the 1923-proposed Equal Rights Amendment, a bill that aims to affirm equality between the sexes under US law which has consistently failed to be ratified; as such it remains to this day a glaring omission from the US constitution.

As one of the women pushing sartorial and occupational boundaries, Amelia also plays an important part in the acceptance of bifurcated clothing for women. Increased popularity in sport and keep-fit fads throughout the 1930s, coupled with the rise of Hollywood increased the amount of women in trousers in the public eye. Not only were movie stars and beach loungers donning pant suits, but sports enthusiasts like golfer-turned-magician Gloria Minoprio also defied convention by wearing trousers instead of regulation skirts to practice their craft. There’s more on golfing style here and you can see more stylishly bifurcated women right here.

But regardless of her social and sartorial achievements, it’s her much-mythologised disappearance for which Amelia is best known. Earhart and her second navigator Fred Noonan had completed three quarters of their round-the-world trip when they vanished without a trace in July 1937. Conspiracy theories, all of which are unsubstantiated, cloud her disappearance in mystique, from espionage to being killed on Saipan Island and even the less sensational claim that she survived the flight, moved to New Jersey, changed her name, remarried and became Irene Craigmile Bolam (more on this here).

In August 2012, new evidencecame to light close to Nikumaroro Island in the South Pacific. Investigators  have found debris which resembles  components of the “landing gear, including a wheel, a strut and a fender”.

Amelia represents adventure, emancipation and the romance of an unsolved disappearance: a heady blend that makes it easy to understand why fashion storytellers consistently fall in love with her. Flight jackets have become a perennial must-have, and despite individual references for each collection they’re always imbued with Amelia’s unique combination of style and danger.

This season Rodarte; this season JPG

Norman Parkinson for Vogue 1951 found here; Fashion Takes Flight in Harper’s Bazaar; Helmut Newton for British Vogue 1967 found at We Heart Vintage

But the romance of the skies holds a fascination for image-makers and fashion luminaries even without a famous figurehead in the pilot seat. The Chanel spring couture collection was staged inside an enormous (non-functional, unfortunately) aircraft, complete with monogrammed carpet and starry sky ‘outside’ the windows. The collection reputedly featured 150 shades of blue (topped you, E.L. James), which has obvious resonance not only with the firmament itself but also references the glamour of the bygone days of the Pan Am stewardess. You can see a video at The Telegraph.

Blue Sky Thinking: Chanel Couture S/S 2012

And it’s not the first time that Chanel has used the glamour of aviation at its shows:

Amelia with Harpo Marx; portrait by Edward Steichen, taken for Vanity Fair magazine, May 1932 from Jane’s Oceania; Amelia with Cary Grant

Much as Amelia Earhart has become an icon for the contemporary fashion industry, it’s little known that she was one of the first people to have what we would now term a celebrity fashion line. According to this account in the Huffington Post, Amelia was initially ridiculed for her masculine garb; the androgyny for which 21st fashion lauds her was somewhat less appreciated in the 1920s, despite the elfin ‘flapper’ figure that was in vogue. Allegedly at the recommendation of her husband/manager, Earhart developed an interest in her appearance and even had the good grace to lose the overalls and don some pretty frocks once in a while. The grateful fashion media began to pick up on this and her own range – Amelia Earhart Fashions – debuted in 1934, financed by an American tire company.

Stocked in Macy’s in New York and Marshall Field’s in Chicago, the line offered Earhart staples such as leather trenches and windbreakers in practical fabrics that were washable as well as wearable. The selling point was a combination of comfort and style, and Amelia’s ethos was carried through into the range marketed at ‘women who lead active lives.’ My favourite aspect of the collection, and the reason I wish more of it had endured, is the small aviation details that were frequently included, from the use of parachute silk to propeller-shaped buttons. But unfortunately the collection didn’t survive the retail downturn of the Great Depression and the line itself was short-lived, folding before Earhart’s disappearance just three years later. Besides a few examples preserved in a west coast museum and a replica in Kansas, for the most part the clothing, like Amelia, sadly vanished without a trace. Thankfully we have a crop of contemporary designers more than happy to keep her sartorial legacy alive.

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“I hate ruffles, and at the price I could pay, that was all I could buy. So I decided to design clothes. They are nothing exciting. Just good lines and good materials for women who lead active lives.” Picture of Earhart fashion label and quote found at the Huffington Post

By Amber Jane Butchart, creator of

Amber Jane Butchart has had a lifelong love affair with dressing up, and is lucky enough to have turned this obsession into a career. She is a freelance writer, broadcaster and trend forecaster, and a featured fashion historian on various BBC productions from Radio 4′s Making History to the Breakfast News. She is a regular contributor to leading trend analysis company WGSN and has written for publications and sites including Fire and KnivesClothes on Film and Fashion156, and for companies such as British Pathé and Ray-Ban. She also hosts a regular ‘In Conversation’ series at the V&A focusing on issues surrounding the costumed body in performance and fashion, and the results are broadcast at TheatreVOICE, the leading online audio resource for British theatre.

Follow my vapour trail on Twitter@Hush_kit

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Have a look at 10 worst British military aircraftSu-35 versus Typhoon10 Best fighters of World War II top WVR and BVR fighters of today, an interview with a Super Hornet pilot and a Pacifist’s Guide to Warplanes. Was the Spitfire overrated? Want something more bizarre? The Top Ten fictional aircraft is a fascinating read, as is The Strange Story and The Planet Satellite. The Fashion Versus Aircraft Camo is also a real cracker. Those interested in the Cold Way should read A pilot’s guide to flying and fighting in the Lightning. Those feeling less belligerent may enjoy A pilot’s farewell to the Airbus A340. Looking for something more humorous? Have a look at this F-35 satire and ‘Werner Herzog’s Guide to pusher bi-planes or the Ten most boring aircraft. In the mood for something more offensive? Try the NSFW 10 best looking American airplanes, or the same but for Canadians. 



Writing fiction about aircraft, and more specifically the experience of flying involves overcoming intrinsic challenges.  A fundamental one is that the technical aspects of describing machinery and the use of technical terms risks alienating any reader who is not an aviation enthusiast.  Another is the difficulty in expressing the emotional response of the aviator to the experience of flight. 

Creative writing about flying tends to work best in the context of semi-autobiographical texts such as Antoine de St Exupery’s 1931 novel ‘Night Flight’ which reflected the author’s own experiences as a mail pilot. Long flights carried out for the company he was a director of, the ‘Aeroposta Argentine’ provided him with the inspiration to philosophise on the individual experience of the aviator, in Nightflight for example he expresses the lone pilot’s isolation:

“A single radio post still heard him. The only link between him and the world was a wave of music, a minor modulation.  Not a lament, no cry, yet purest of sounds that ever spoke despair.”


Few write as well as St Exupery and the difficulties of writing about flight arguably explain a comparative lack of great ‘flying’ novels.  A good novel about flying requires enough technical detail to make it convincing but needs to be able to describe the nature of the sky and of an experience few readers will experience. This is compounded when the flight described is that of a fighter pilot and the exhilaration of flight is heightened by the adrenaline of battle.

Jed Mercurio’s novel ‘Ascent’ is ostensibly the fictional tale of Russian fighter ace Yefgenii Yeremin who during the Korean war becomes the feared ‘Ivan the Terrible’. Yeremin is a fighter pilot of the Cold War. He flies MiG-15’s covertly for the VVS. The pilots are not supposed to be there, they are given Korean phrase books to memorise so that their enemies remain unaware of their nationality and they are expected to fall on their swords if they suffer damage. In effect they are phantoms. The psychological and social effect of this situation on the Russian crew and their operations is one of the interesting aspects of the novel. They cannot become heroes or die heroes in the tradition of their Second World War predecessors and this leads to questions of motivation; Glory, duty, excitement or simply a love of flying?

The depictions of engagement with the enemy are fast and thrilling but more complex than a simple fight as in-fighting between Russian pilots, questions about why they are there and of loyalty and betrayal arise.  Yeremin’s ascent to superstar flying ace is accompanied by arrogance but he does not suffer an Icarus like fall from grace, but a quiet, political eradication. The differences between the cold war and that of the previous ‘heroic’ war are underlined.


When the book was published in 2007 some reviewers felt alienated by the cold distant nature of the protagonist. This misses the point, for Yeremin passion and life exist in the skies and in his jetfighter.   There he is a ruthless predator in possession of his own destiny and in the sky is able to overcome the politics, betrayal and petty jealousy that he is unable to combat on the ground. When unable to fly, grounded by rain or political exile his hours are characterised by ennui and depression.


This emotional response to the act of flying is countered by Mercurio’s emphasis on the physicality of controlling a fighter jet, the author is both a Doctor and a pilot and repeatedly describes the protagonist being thrown about in his plane and suffering:

‘His shoulders stung. The harness straps had lifted the scabs on his shoulders. He felt blood leaking from his wounds.’

For pilots in the jet age flying is not only the act of mastering a machine and the elements but also of mastering themselves, handling g force, broken blood vessel and nausea.  It was the physical mastery of suffering that took the USSR and US fighter pilots into space exploration and Mercurio’s Russian’s ability to absorb suffering is as much a factor as his good eyesight in propelling him, in the final stages of the book into the cold war space race.  The book is also visually expressive, Yeremin flies through a sky of vapour streams and light and the depictions of dog fights are thrilling. The air shimmers.  The pictoral element of his writing is further explored in the 2011 graphic novel version of the book illustrated by Wesley Robins.

I started this review by referring to St Exupery. ‘Ascent’ is a different kind of book but it shares, behind the descriptions of dogfights, soviet duplicity and personal ambition some of the same philosophical elements. What drives Yeremin is a hopeless kind of romanticism. His need to strive, his obsession with pushing himself higher into the canopy and beyond into space is ultimately, like most such endeavours; doomed. This is condensed in an elegiac and almost zen like ending which leaves you realising you have read something more than a thrilling adventure story.

‘Ascent’ Jed Mercurio published in paperback 2008 by Vintage.

‘Ascent’ (Graphic Novel) Jed Mercurio and Wesley Robins published in 2011 by Jonathan Cape

Review by Minerva Miller, M.A.hons (Cantab)  Msc (City)- University Librarian at the University of London

Hush-Kit is reminding the world of the beauty of flight.

follow my vapour trail on Twitter@Hush_kit

Have a look at 10 worst British military aircraftSu-35 versus Typhoon10 Best fighters of World War II top WVR and BVR fighters of today, an interview with a Super Hornet pilot and a Pacifist’s Guide to Warplanes. Was the Spitfire overrated? Want something more bizarre? The Top Ten fictional aircraft is a fascinating read, as is The Strange Story and The Planet Satellite. The Fashion Versus Aircraft Camo is also a real cracker. Those interested in the Cold Way should read A pilot’s guide to flying and fighting in the Lightning. Those feeling less belligerent may enjoy A pilot’s farewell to the Airbus A340. Looking for something more humorous? Have a look at this F-35 satire and ‘Werner Herzog’s Guide to pusher bi-planes or the Ten most boring aircraft. In the mood for something more offensive? Try the NSFW 10 best looking American airplanes, or the same but for Canadians. 

I made Jimmy Stewart: an Interview with Nina Mae Fowler

Hollywood legend James Stewart was considered too old, too light and too famous to fight in the United States Army Air Force in World War II. This didn’t stop him, and with a great deal of determination, he went on to lead a bomber squadron based in England. He survived twenty bombing missions against Germany. Long after the war he remained a reserve airman, and remarkably, flew as an observer in a B-52 mission in the Vietnam War.

British artist Nina Mae Fowler is building a sculpture of Jimmy Stewart, to be cast in aluminium from World War II aircraft. Hush-Kit met Nina to find out the story behind this fascinating art piece.

“I work with a foundry near Old Buckenham in Norfolk, which is where the photo of James Stewart was taken. Tim Hannam who runs the foundry showed me the image, telling me the history of the local airfield and asked if I would consider making a sculpture based on the photograph. His idea was to cast the work using metal collected from parts of World War II planes.”

“The project appealed to me as my work is largely based around Hollywood during the 1920’s-40’s and one of the processes I most enjoy is making 3-dimensional sculptural works from old images of bygone stars. This particular image of James Stewart sitting on a fence in his pilot’s uniform already has a sculptural feel to it and a real sense of heroism in his character.”

“ I am not very well-educated in the field of famous aviators but I did recently read a quote from Robert Taylor (Good Housekeeping magazine, May 1956) regarding the ‘ten things that make my heart beat faster’……number one of which was: “The wide sky – from the cockpit of my plane”.

“I have however, enjoyed many films about aviation, I particularly enjoyed one called ‘The Last Flight’ (1931) about 4 pilots in Paris drinking themselves to the brink of oblivion in an attempt to forget the horrors of World War I.

There is an unforgettable shot of a bleary-eyed Helen Chandler holding a glass containing a set of false teeth she is “looking after” whilst their owner settles a score outside. Another good film on the subject is ‘The Eagle and The Hawk’ (1933) in which Frederic March plays a pilot fighting not only the physical perils of the war but also the mental strains.

That film also starred Carole Lombard who tragically lost her life in a plane crash on her way to see her husband Clark Gable who was a B-17 gunner in World War II….there could well be a piece of work in that too.”

“The sculpture measures approximately 60 cm in height. The images you have are of the model before it has been cast in metal, in its clay form. I use an oil-based clay called ‘chavant’. This means you don’t have to worry about it drying out like the normal water-based clay, and you can achieve a much higher level of detail as the medium is harder – a bit like Plasticine for grown-ups. Once the mould has been made Tim will make a replica of the fence he is sitting on and then cast the figure in aluminium, sourced from the disused parts of World War II planes.”

” I very much like the idea of the material being so relevant to the subject matter of the piece and with the added interest of the sculpture being cast close to the airfield where James Stewart was stationed gives me great pleasure too. I have done my utmost to stay true to the uniform and accessories of the time by researching the boots, hats and binoculars etc.

When working from a photo you are limited to what the camera can see and small details are lost in the lighting or camera angle. It was important to me that I got those sorts of details correct though as I appreciate there are lots of people who still take a keen interest in every aspect of aviation from that era.”

“The next pictures we will see of the work will hopefully show it in its  final aluminium form. The casting process is complicated and can be unpredictable so as Tim says, now we just have to “pray to the casting Gods”. I am hoping to cast a limited edition of 20 and exhibit them wherever there is interest – in the local area and perhaps further afield. I will keep you posted.”

“Oh gosh, here comes my lack of knowledge in this field again. In terms of a favourite aircraft I’m afraid the answer would be whichever one was going to take me to Southern Spain the fastest. As for an aviator it would have to be a close call between all the matinee idols who ever flew planes. Not only were they in uniform, they were actually doing a real-life heroes job (along with all the other pilots of course), herein lies the beauty of the James Stewart piece for me.”

“I love to fly, especially if I am going somewhere hot or somewhere I have yet to see. I can’t say I have any desire to be in the cockpit though. The closest I came to this was in a small 6-seater tourist plane which flew my father and I over the Grand Canyon by way of an electrical storm. I don’t think I need to go into details but I will say that I don’t remember the view.”

“Oh, and that reminds me of a much happier experience I had on the same trip, going onboard the private plane which belonged to Elvis Presley on the grounds of the Graceland Museum in Memphis.”

“The thing which impressed me most was not the throne he sat on in the main area which seemed to have enough buttons and controls on its armrest to actually fly the plane but the impossibly long seatbelt which circumnavigated his double bed at the other end!”

Hush-Kit believes that Fowler’s Stewart statue should be permanently displayed at Old Buckenham airfield……more to follow

Fowler is represented by Galerie DukanHourdequin (Paris). In 2008 she was nominated for the BP portrait Award with her portrait of Royal Ballet dancer Carlos Acosta and in 2010 she was short-listed for the Jerwood Drawing Prize. Her work is admired and collected by luminaries such as JohnMaybury, Daniel Templon, Anne Faggionato and Jude Law. She is included in private and public collections in Europe, Asia and the USA.



On arriving at the Camden Arts Centre, I was delighted to see they were giving out free cake, sandwiches and tea. After munching down in the garden, I was in a good mood as I entered the exhibition. The world I entered was very familiar. It was very British and very of its time. It was a mangled and happy jumble of mid-20th Century English culture. Lacey was almost killed by a V2 rocket in Enfield, which brutally smashed off the wing of his toy Hawker Hurricane.

It is an England of bizarre humour and arsing about, of parlour games and fancy dress. Everything is tinged with the colour brown, a shed-like quality that even reaches into Lacey’s later psychedelic period (was that him at the exhibition in a tye-died gown?). His work has the scruffy home-made darkness of penny arcades, automaton’s jaw-bones laughing away, and the doom of hospitals (from back when they were Victorian death museums). Like Monty Python or Spike Milligan, it ridicules authority, and it is thick with Spitfire nostalgia. He pukes out the English subconcious with ease, doing for us what The Cramps and John Waters did for mid-20th Century Americana.

While in the Air Training Corps he built a working flight simulator in his bedroom- not the modern kind but the 1940s device, a simple rocking construction largely made of wood. The world is viewed as a boy would, full of fun red indians and astronauts and planes. His work which involves magick rituals, seems no more complex than a happy make-believing, real play.

The amount of work is impressive and I grew jealous of how well he has spent his life. Why have I not performed diabolical rituals at night? Or built spacesuits?

Though I said this work was very English it also fits into another world, the side of aviation explored by Joseph Beuys and the Belgian artist Panamenrenko (who has a Fokker 50 named in his honour); that is, an aeroplane as a one-off machine that allows a person to take flight. As if children playing had accidently flown.

As you sit in your white plastic easyJet (lower-case e) bombarded with audio adverts for boring crap this may not readily come to mind.