On The Line 6.2

by Steve on October 10, 2009

Back to 6.1

Down in Air Ops all eyes were on the screen watching the tanker launch. They could see the jet straining at full power. Then the lights dipped slightly and shot down the cat in a blur of steam. Good shot. At some point in the four second carnival ride the control sticks in the cockpit of 701 slammed against the left hand stops and Ted’s knee. Trained reaction took over. A lateral hardover at night on the cat shot. No question. He shot a quick glance over at Mac, saw him fighting in vain to center the stick, and knew in his gut there was no way they would fly away from this one.

“Eject! Eject! Eject!” Ted yelled into the ICS as he reached between his legs for the lower ejection handle and pulled. Just as the jet reached the end of the cat the two empty back seats blasted clear of their canopies. Eyes went wide in Pri-Fly and Air Ops. Controls jammed in a hard left turn, the Viking immediately started to roll off to the left as it cleared the deck. A half second after the back seats fired the front seats punched through their canopies ripping the two aviators clear of the doomed aircraft. With the aircraft rolling left and Ted in the right seat he was thrown almost straight up over the ship. Mac was on the inside of the roll and he was shot out almost parallel to the sea. The separation that was engineered into the trajectory of the seats to keep them from colliding sent Mac careening dangerously low over the water. The Boss saw Mac’s chute partially open but then it was gone in the blackness that surrounded the ship. The Viking continued its death roll and impacted the sea inverted, nose down, just ahead of the bow and off to the left. On the bridge of the USS Reagan things began to happen quickly. The captain, a former A-6 driver, knew that he had an aircraft and more importantly at least one man in the water just to the left of his course. The four massive screws pushing the hull of the carrier through the sea at over thirty knots could easily suck a man under as the ship went past. The captain waited for what seemed an eternity to the crew on the bridge.

“Left full rudder.”

“Left full rudder, aye sir,” the helmsman replied.

Once the Captain felt the stern start to swing out to the right he followed with, “All engines stop.” Once again the helmsman repeated the order as the blood, sweat, and mistakes of others before him required him to do. The Captain knew it was a vain attempt to maneuver the ship clear of the wreck – it would take a while for the Reagan to come to a stop. But sometimes the margin between life and death was very slim and maybe by swinging the stern away from the area of the impact he could save a life. He had to try. The searchlights from the helicopter swung across the bow as the SAR mission kicked in. The S-3 was still floating belly up and nose low as the ship passed along side. The entire deck crew manned the port side, eyes probing the darkness for any signs of the missing crew. No strobes, no flashlights, not even any helmets reflecting in the searchlights. The blackness had swallowed them.

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{ 1 comment }

Kath October 14, 2009 at 13:30

Okay, I read it. Not being a pilot, I don’t understand all of it. But, of course, get the idea.

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