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I was picking someone up at the Burlington airport the other day, and a minor flight delay gave me the opportunity to discover their handy observation tower. It's just a little room, with an upstairs viewing area that looks like a control tower in miniature - wraparound tilting glass walls, and some tall stools set along the parapet, so you can sit and rest your elbows as you watch the planes go by. Mostly you just sit - there aren't a lot of planes to see at BTV on a Friday morning. It was quiet and still when I was there, except for a big slow cow of a National Guard cargo plane doing touch-and-go's, and the occasional little two-seater taking off for points unknown.

The Burlington airport can be considerably more exciting - it's home to a squadron of F-16's, and they often go roaring off into the sky, taking off in threes, afterburners forming a little pyramid of flaming circles. The night takeoffs are especially spectacular - and LOUD - but those are far less common. For a while Vermont planes were patrolling New York City skies every day, and so you always had a fair shot at seeing them take off if you had a morning flight.

It is very nice that, with all the hoo-hah about security, Burlington airport still keeps open this wonderful little tower, where kids can rush up and gawk, with its comfy stools and the little speaker that lets you hear air traffic control talking to the planes as they come in to land. I like that there's no big fuss about it. I like it when airports acknowledge that after all these years we've been flying around, there is still something miraculous about an airplane.

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