Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Flying is inherently dangerous - or so I've been told.

I retired from Uncle Sam's Air Force in 2006.  I had more than a couple thousand hours logged in WC-135, B-52, P-3, and Beech King Air platforms before I decided to call it quits.  Why an Air Force guy managed to hop amongst all those platforms is a story that can't be written yet, but through it all, I was NEVER intercepted by hostiles.  We planned for it, practiced for it, and landed with relief each time it didn't happen. That doesn't mean we weren't looking for trouble - we were just really good at avoiding it and getting the hell out of Dodge when we saw it.

Fast-forward to 2013.  I decide that the winds are calm enough and weather nice enough to send Mr. Orville Wright out for a few lazy Figure 8s over the field across the road from my front yard.  When I say field I mean several square acres, bordered by a retention pond to the south, the street to the north, and a few big maple trees to the east.  Perfect, or so I thought.  The plane's batteries were fully charged, off we go, into the wild blue yonder!

The launch went smoothly, I managed to get a couple of box patterns in and was working the Figure 8s pretty well when all hell broke loose.  Unbeknownst to me, there was a Starling Interceptor Squadron stationed in the nearest maple tree, and Orville had penetrated both their Outer and Inner ADIZ something fierce.  (It wasn't on the local GNC or ONC charts, my bad...)

They came out in a flight of 3, basically a flight lead and two wingbirds.  Since I wasn't expecting them and was staying focused on keeping things airborne with the remote, I didn't even see them until they were on top of the plane.  Flight lead starling lit the burners and bounced the Wright Flyer's top wing, sending it into a shallow right spiraling dive. That's when I actually saw the three birds for the first time, and couldn't believe my eyes.  Friggin' songbirds are attacking a Wright Flyer - the audacity!

I had enough altitude to throw in some opposite rudder and throttle to regain straight and level flight. As I was climbing out of that little situation, wingbird #2 decided he was gonna biff the airplane's upper horizontal stabilizer.  That was enough to totally discombobulate the plane, and down it went, although I was able to bring the nose up near-level just as it pancaked into the tall grass, preventing an awkward F-16 Lawn Dart moment for my watching neighbors (Whom I hadn't noticed until the mishap, either).

All 3 birds overflew the crash site, then returned to home branch for debriefing and logging of a confirmed kill.  With my pride shattered, no thanks to the neighbors' laughter, I walked over to see if Orville and his flyer were damaged.  Luckily, besides aforementioned pride and a slightly creased lower horizontal stabilizer, all was intact.  I pulled hay out of the landing skids and Orville's face, and glared towards the maple tree as I walked home.

I'll be back across the street soon.  With my 400-size helicopter.  After I sharpen the leading edges of the main rotor, you little bastards!


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