Crossing the Atlantic

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Crossing the Atlantic

Charles Lindbergh arrived at Croydon Field, Surrey, England, June 1927

Crossing the Atlantic

Crossing the Atlantic

By Kenny Miller

Even with an early sack time, morning came all too soon. He was still thinking about the trip ahead as he listened to the wind howl and the ice pellets play their natural wind chime song against his motel bedroom window. This was comforter country and nothing but the top of his now balding head was willing to give up an inch of this thick, goose down filled liner that saved the heat and made him wish that morning and work would never come.

He slowly pulled himself out from under the warm comforter and made a gingerly dance across the wooden bedroom floor to the bathroom where he turned the shower to a full blast of hot water. He watched as the room filled with steam and the temperature start to rise. He pictured his jet flying through this man-made fog--racing for the imaginary runway on the floor as the fog claimed all of the clear air in the room. Would he make it through today?

When Lindbergh made this journey, the world held it's breath as the soon-to-be legendary flyer took to the skies, alone, in the small single engine "Spirit of St. Louis." When these guys fired up their two jet engines, the world yawned. Lindbergh would fly just a few feet above the icy grip of the North Atlantic. This Lear would level off almost eight miles above the ocean. Lindbergh would be alone over a sea of silence. This jet crew would be chatting with someone every twenty minutes and navy ships would be checking on them.

A huge crowd of well-wishers would be waiting for Lindbergh. More yawns for the jet crew. The world would remember Lindbergh for greatness. Only the co-pilot's mother marked this day and her mark would be one of worry. Lindbergh learned his skills in Lincoln, Nebraska. So did the jet's co-pilot. None the less, the sky, the Atlantic, and the unknown were no less threatening. On this trip, there was only one good choice--their destination. A very cold swim was the prize for poor planning.

Winter in Goose Bay, Canada is a blend of snowy gray skies and snow covered dwarf pine trees standing in quiet stillness as if they were modeling for a Christmas Currier and Ives painting. The breakfast menu at the simple motel was designed for loggers who trudged through the snow and fishermen who would take on the swells and the freezing spray of the sea. And yes today it would be the jump-off point for two jet pilots and an aerial photographer who would hopefully end their day with beer and snitzels in Germany. The bitter cold hit the co-pilot instantly as he cleared the hotel door and headed for the waiting van. His exposed ears started to throb as if they had been slammed in a door. Their final destination was Africa so he hadn't packed a stocking cap or gloves. He cursed himself. He should have thought about them because flying is planning and he hadn't planned well. To him, that was worse than the cold.

The dwarf pine trees stood in silence, like soldiers at parade rest on this windless morning as the crew bus passed in review. The extreme cold of the night had been the co-pilot's friend because the new snow did not bind to the metal of the wings. He was able to brush it off and find shiny dry metal below. The biggest problem was a cold start and the intense pressure that would develop as the plane's systems fluids struggled to change from thick and cold to warm, thin, and protective. Pre-flight complete and flight plan on file, they were ready to take the runway and make a right turn for their appointment with the Atlantic on their flight to an even more forbidding winter name--Iceland. Finally they were airborne and the warmth from the engines were thawing both plane and co-pilot.

As the jet climbed away from Goose Bay, the clouds soon gave way to the seemingly unending grayness. There it was, the great Atlantic, rolling in silence as far as the eye could see. To their South was Newfoundland and somewhere between was a spot of water which opened up and claimed the HMS Titanic. He thought about one of his favorite movies, "A Night To Remember", and how small and insignificant this plane and it's three souls were compared to the cruel history and silent gray vastness below them. He played the "what if" games most young pilots were taught to play. He had been extra careful to double, no triple check the life raft and the ELT just inside the small jet's door. He looked over his shoulder to make sure the emergency gear was still there. His captain looked at him and laughed.

"If we go down it won't matter. We won't survive more than thirty seconds."

He understood the message. Watch the gauges. Watch the fuel. Watch the speed. Always know where you were. Today, there was no room for error, stupidity, or poor planning. On the horizon and off to their left was their last "out" in case of trouble. They would pass just south of the southern tip of Greenland, and if necessary, they could make a run for it. He had seen the pictures and heard the stories of the planes and crews who had landed on the frozen glaciers of Greenland. It could be done but only the crew would survive because the continent of ice would claim the plane before anyone could repair and rescue it. Finally there was movement in the navigation needle. They were on course and closing on Keflavick, Iceland. He dialed in the frequency for Keflavik ATIS. Trouble.

"The weather is at minimums and a ninety degree crosswind is blowing at forty-eight knots with gusts over sixty knots," he told his captain. As he spoke, the red low fuel warning light came on and the little jet was still 100 miles out.. If they couldn't manage fuel or find the runway--the Atlantic patiently waited.

This small jet was the only plane battling the Keflavick winds and rain. The captain wrestled the wind and adjusted the power accordingly. Now was the time for his best stuff. Minimums and enough of a hint of the running rabbit came at the same time. "There!" he called out. "There it is at your eleven o'clock position," the relieved co-pilot called out as the runway became visible through the rain and whispy cotton clouds. The junior officer watched as his boss applied full aileron deflection and wrestle the wind.. Finally touchdown. The prize-fighter wind continued to hit at them as if it had a kill pinned against the ropes. The bell was on the captain's side. He had put his plane on the centerline of a rain covered runway and that was where he planned to stay.

Finally the plane sat silent in front of the terminal. The captain unbuckled his shoulder harness and seat belts went into the terminal to find operations and file a flight plan for Edinburgh, Scotland. The junior officer walked around the plane to check again that all was well. He stood with his face to the wind and let the rain hit his face. He tasted the rain--a hint of salt and looked back down the runway to the gray beyond and smiled. He had finally flown beyond his friends.

"Scotland is zero-zero and not expected to improve," the captain said as he returned to the waiting crew. "We'll fly to Reykjavik and spend the night." The residents had chosen the name Iceland to keep people away. It didn't work for this crew and apparently for a few other pilots. Parked next to their jet were three brand new single-engine Cessna aircraft with American November registries.

"How did these planes get here?" the young co-pilot asked the fuel truck driver. "American pilots," the driver responded as he stretched out the hose from the jet fuel truck and started to fuel the Lear.

"Wait a minute," the young co-pilot protested. "They fly these little planes across the Atlantic, through the ice and wind, just above the waves...alone...like Lindbergh?" "All of the time," the fueler said as he looked at the jet co-pilot and smiled.

The co-pilot stood for a few minutes, looking at the small planes and the Atlantic off in the distance. He thought about what he had just experienced and smiled. "What the heck," he mumbled as he turned and walked toward the hotel, "Lindbergh's co-pilot was a fly."

If you like Kenny's writing and have a Kindle, you will love his four star aviation thriller, The Africa Bomb. Enter a tension filled cockpit and see if co-pilot Chance Mikelson will do what he has to do in order to prevent a major disaster. If you ever wondered what it was like to fly a modern business jet, this is your story. Here's the link http://www.amazon.com/The-Africa-Bomb-ebook/dp/B003XVYGX0/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1286121060&sr=8-1 Just copy and paste into your browser.

Article Source: https://EzineArticles.com/expert/Kenny_Miller/98385


Kenny Miller

Kenny Miller is a Nebraska guy who has done a bunch of things. He worked in Connecticut for the Remington Arms Company in firearms advertising. He moved back to Nebraska and started an advertising agency which became Miller Friendt Ludemann. One of the MFL clients was Duncan Aviation and Kenny loved the account so much, he learned how to fly and became a professional pilot. His travels took him around the world and he landed back in the US as one of country singer Willie Nelson's jet pilots. During his world flying days, Kenny became very concerned about airspace security. Kenny has also written a "Waltons" style short story collection about life in a small Nebraska town during the 1950-1960 period. His work has appeared in flying magazines and he writes content pieces for corporate clients. He is also a published photographer.

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