15 December, 1915 22:00 Le Bourget Sergent Gaston A. Voscadeaux
Voscadeaux was sitting in the cockpit of his Caudron with the instruments illuminated by a small lightbulb flickering in tune with the droning of the engines, which were currently spitting small plumes of flame from the exhausts. He could see the waxing moon in front of him and made a mental note to keep it at his back for the duration of the flight to keep himself oriented in the right direction to his destination. He was excited to test his skills in this new environment. He wasn’t sure what to expect with darkness surrounding him on all sides. The Caudron started to roll and was soon in the air with the burning oil drums and the lights from the hangars flashing by and then nothing... Total darkness with the exception of the moon, the instrument panel illumination and the receding lights of the aerodrome. Gaston could not see the ground or even the horizon. He couldn’t even tell if he was flying straight, let alone navigate to a distant aerodrome. The feeling of dread grabbed him by the throat and rammed its tentacles all the way down to the pit of his stomach. The entire body was instantly drenched in cold sweat. He couldn’t see and was afraid to make any adjustments as not to upset the balance of the machine. With each second he was flying further into the depths of hell and further away from the safety of the aerodrome. His only reference now was the position of the moon. Gaston quickly made the decision to turn back. He will not lose his life senselessly. He kicked the rudder and watched the moon slide to the side and end up at his back. Gaston was hoping he was still flying level and was desperately searching for any hint of the airfield he had left just a few minutes ago. He finally noticed faint lights to his port side and carefully approached them. It was the aerodrome! He lined his craft with the glowing row of burning oil drums and flew past them, then made a ginger 180 degrees turn. His nose should now be lined up for final approach and Gaston tried feverishly to recall the locations of every nearby tree. He will need to avoid them without ever seeing them. The glow of the airfield was getting closer. He could not see how close the ground was and had to trust his instruments. Gaston had to force himself to avoid descending too early for the fear of ramming into the high berm ahead of the airfield. He travelled the final distance blindly, praying that his altimeter was properly calibrated and he will not simply smash into the pitch below disintegrating the machine and splattering his brains on the nearest tree. This thought was interrupted by a heavy thud. He was on the ground and the Caudron was groaning in protest to the rough handling. Gaston looked at the clock. His entire “mission” lasted 7 minutes and was a total fiasco. A definite fail. What now? Is he a washout? Will Le Capitaine be just too happy to tell him to go pack his bags? Gaston had no answers.
"Take the cylinder out of my kidneys, The connecting rod out of my brain, my brain, From out of my arse take the camshaft, And assemble the engine again."