The phone rang in the kitchen… ummm...ready-room. My wife's, err... the First Sergeant’s presence was needed at the end of the street. Her call to action was my call to action and as she loaded the kids – troops – into the Grand Carav... transport, I dressed for a dri– , night patrol.
The wind was strong and gusting, the September sunset had dragged the mercury column below 50. The sky was cloudless, but humid air diffused the full moon. I suited up: cotton turtleneck, wool Henley, leather bomber jacket, and flight gloves.
I stepped down into the hangar through the crew door and performed a brief walk around. The canopy was retracted, as it always is, but so was the radio antenna. I extended the antenna and lowered myself into the cockpit.
- Seat belt – Secure
- Mixture – Rich
- Brakes – On
- Cabin Heat – Full
- Air Control – Cabin
- Stick – Neutral
- Starter – Engaged
After a few blades the engine caught, coughed, and then began a low-idle stumble. The odor of unburned petrol mingled with hot, grey breaths of damp exhaust; all spit from steel lungs struggling from the sudden awakening, like a smoker rising in the morning and clearing his chest of the night's sediment. At my command the hanger door opened and cool, humid air rushed in from the darkness.
- Lights - On
I taxied slowly down the ramp, letting the engine come up to temperature. I checked the engine gauges, adjusted the fuel mixture, moved the stick forward and – satisfied everything was in order – advanced the throttle. As I accelerated through the darkness with the moon on my 'six, cold, damp fingers of air probed for gaps in my protective clothing. Invigorated, I advanced the throttle further.
It was one of those flights where one just feels alive. I pushed the limits of my ship's performance; diving into each turn and pulling back out with the throttle to the firewall, all the while maintaining quick but smooth control of the stick. Then straight and level I flew, always watchful for the telltale red-blue flash of the enemy.
My craft performed flawlessly. It, too, was invigorated by the cold. At 3000 rpm the engine roared with purpose and the slightest advance of the throttle was met with acceleration. Warm air from the cabin heater rose from my feet and struggled against eddies of cold air near my face before being drawn from the cockpit by the slipstream.
Though the gauge faces had fogged over from moist air condensing inside their cases, I could see I only had a ten-minute reserve of petrol remaining. I plotted a winding course for home in case I was being followed and I used my ship's performance and maneuverability to full advantage. With home base in sight I leveled off and opened the throttle for a high performance arrival. My brief mission was over.
As the door opened on the alert hangar I paused on the ramp to run-up the engine. The sweet, steady roar from the pipes was followed by a throaty burble as I throttled back. I looked over the side of the cockpit to check my clearance and then taxied into the hanger.
- Lights - Off
- Ignition - Off
- Stick - Neutral
- Brakes – Set
The metal clasp of the seat belt fell from my lap and chinked against thin metal as I raised myself from the cockpit, and my senses were met by the clicking of cooling metal, the odor of hot oil, and the engine's escaping heat warming my cold face. She's a good ship, always ready for action, and once again there were no discrepancies to report to the crew chief.
As I finished hanging up my leather jacket the First Sergeant and troops returned from their action down the street. Everyone was safely home.