77_Scout -- great start. Hope you get a good safe start despite the bad weather in December. Fullofit, don't forget you're in the final, working-up phase of training and the RGA serves as a pilot depot, so flying a G4 is not out of the question (although you'd likely spend more time on a G3 first so you could kill only yourself if so inclined). Lou, great story! I haven't caught up to 6 December yet because I'm on the road again. But the following story brings me up to date with my flights so far...
An Airman’s Odyssey – by James Arthur Collins Part Four: In which I become overly confident, come close to disaster, and get brought down to earth again.
4 December was the first half-decent weather since our arrival. Although the sky was hazy, patches of sun broke through from time to time and the long stocking-like wind indicator, which Mr. Thomas called an FL for no reason I understood, hung limp on the pole beside the hangars.
“Show me five circuits, just like yesterday,” Thomas said. Drop in as close to the near end of the field as you can, come to a stop, and wait for my signal before taking off again.” It was a simple task. The BE2 was a lovely docile old cow and I was feeling rather competent. The whole task was done in less than a half-hour. By now, I was getting a bit cocky and was stalling the machine within feet of the high grass at the edge of the field so that the wheels and tail touched down at the same time. After the last circuit, I taxied up to the hangar, shut down, and thanked the sergeant mechanic who cheerily complimented the landings. All in all, I was feeling very full of myself.
An afternoon of lectures on technical subjects followed, one of which was splendidly taught and the other two of which were unintelligible due to the impediments affecting the instructor. A fellow pilot suggested the man was made a lecturer because he couldn’t cook soup.
Rain returned the next day, but it was judged flyable. I was to take the machine higher, do a circuit, land, and then take a very wide hour-long circuit of the surrounding area. I’d never flown in winds as strong as we had this day, and on take-off I found that it required full rudder to prevent the machine from turning downwind on the ground, followed by a bank into the wind upon leaving the ground. As I climbed to the west, the gusts repeated threatened to cause a stall. It took more that ten minutes to reach four thousand feet. I’d intended to circle to the south and look for Stonehenge, but I was too busy watching the angle of the nose to be concerned with the terrain below.
Cutting the circuit a bit short, I throttled back and angled down to the east side of the field. By now it was becoming routine: over the copse, over the telephone wires, over the hill, and a quick drop down to the field. But this time the gusts forced me to fly the machine down rather than ease it. Once the crest of the hill passed beneath, I cut the engine fully and let the aircraft settle. Suddenly, a gust hit me from the south and west and the machine swerved and climbed to the right, shuddered, and hung on the edge of a stall. I opened the throttle fully. The engine hesitated. I cursed, realising I had failed to enrich the mixture and quickly made the adjustment. Like a child’s kite, the BE bobbed in the air, making no headway relative to the ground. And just ahead lay the line of hangars and three machines that were staked down and surrounded by Ack Emmas! I’d swerved off the field. Full rudder now and nose down. The machine hit the ground and bounced. I throttled back and let it slow, swerving to the right to straighten out the landing. As soon as the speed dropped, I pulled the stick back into my stomach and prayed the skid would soon dig in.
I looked over and saw Thomas, pipe in teeth, making the sign of the cross. He gave me a thumbs up signal and pointed at the far end of the field. I opened up again and headed back into the grey sky and freezing wing. This time I turned north and made a wide circle north to Pewsey, east to Andover, and south to Salisbury. I was to stay up at least an hour at six thousand. The cold cut through more than I’d ever seen. I had on the new underwear, but I now wished I’d bought one of the knit spencers I’d seen at the kit store in town. The minutes passed with agonising slowness. With less than ten minutes to go I was turning north over the fringes of Salisbury and was down to 2500 feet when a loud bang startled me and the engine began to sound like dozen steam hammers in a closed shop. Something looked odd up front. After a few seconds I saw that second nearest of the right-hand bank of cylinder was not quite right. The cylinder head was bent upward like a cap on a stovepipe and obviously at least two and likely three of the long bolts had sheared. I switched off and began looking for a place to put down – something I should have been doing all along. The fields were crossed with fences or stone dykes or dotted with trees. The road leading north from Salisbury, the one we’d driven along in the OC’s Crossley, was flanked by trees or wires. I was down to one thousand feet and quickly running out of time.
I saw to the west a wide, empty road and turned towards it, but immediately realised that he wind would prevent me reaching it safely. There was no time left, so I turned north again and headed for a green field. The grass looked higher than I’d have liked and there was a line of tall trees at its near edge. It was touch and go.
The line of trees passed inches below my wheels and the BE flopped into the grass. With the stick pulled back the tail stayed down and it slowed quickly. A fence loomed up but I stopped well short. Relief came like a warm bath. Rain pattered on the planes and I inhaled the smell of wet earth and vegetation. It was several minutes before I climbed down. The tree row I’d glided over was surprisingly close, but at least it sheltered the machine from the wind. There were some soldiers on the road to the east. I headed towards them to recruit a guard while I found somewhere to phone the airfield camp.
A tender and recovery team arrived a few hours later. The field was too small to fly out of, so they had to dismantle the machine and truck it back. I walked to the road and began to plod north. After about a half-hour, another tender picked me up, and I got back just in time for tea. I found a letter from Dorothy and Mummy and another from Mr. McCready. According to McCready, more communities in Ontario were going dry, and the was increasing political support for complete prohibition and the Hearst government was likely to pass a temperance act. He recommended that we develop a brand of “medicinal” whiskey to avoid a disaster. I wrote to him that the brand need not be substantially different in formulation from Collins Yukon Gold. A new label might suffice. I added that it might be possible to set up a US distribution company in Buffalo, as production for the export market may be allowed.