By Kind Permission of the Author:
A Short Story by Francis Blincoe Deval
As mentioned in my previous post, I was invited along by the wonderfully organised Linda Bromyard, Librarian at Blessed Edward Oldcorne RC High School, to take part in a National Share a Story Month Event yesterday. Sue Johnson (novelist, poet and author of the fabulous Writer’s Toolkit series), Karen King (author of Children’s and YA books) and I, were there to offer readings from our work and chat to the children about books and writing in general. We came away wondering whether to retire! The pupils were such talented story-tellers they left us quite literally awestruck. These children write beautifully, read prolifically, and are as excited by books as we are. We had no doubt we had met the future generation of writers, fresh, exhilarating and totally inspiring.
By kind permission of the author, I’m posting one of the stories we had the pleasure of listening to here. The standard of the writing, I think you will agree, is amazing - and the research outstanding. Have a read, I think you’ll be impressed.
A Short Story
Francis Blincoe Deval
Sarah Trinny was controller on the 13th of June 2012. She was in the Manchester control tower monitoring flights. She had once worked in air traffic control, but moved to work in the tower. The airport was loaded with flights; some being refuelled; some boarding; some unloading; and some like British airways flight 2398, waiting to taxi.“BA flight 2398, you are cleared to taxi.”
***“This is British airways flight 2398 to control, repeat, cleared for taxi. Over”
Captain Omar had 16 years of flying with British airways. Before that he had spent 10 years with the British airforce. He was very experienced and knew his planes well. He was also an expert flyer. 3 years ago, when an elevator cable snapped, he led the plane down and made a safe landing. A year after that he managed to land a plane starved of fuel.Captain Omar was flying with Co – Pilot Alexander Reed, or just Alex. Alex had also shared a bad fate when flying. He over shot a runway by accident and crashed into some barriers at the end of the runway. The flight crew were very experienced, but no level of skill could save them from their fate later that day…
***At that very moment, under highly restricted air space, a new satellite was getting ready to be launched. Its rocket, Atlantis III, stood proud on the launch pad and numerous amounts of people were scurrying about on the ground, in the mission control centre, and in the view port, where the designers, scientists and computer technicians were all waiting tensely for the launch. Matt Griffiths was a scientist. He was a graduate from Cambridge University and he had done his PhD’s in space technology. He had worked around the clock to make sure that the rocket would get into the atmosphere. After years of dedicated planning and discussion, the European Sea level monitoring satellite, would finally get into orbit.
***“British airways flight 2398, please use runway 05 Left. Repeat runway 05 Left. Wait behind the Virgin jet.”
“Okay, moving up from taxi way Bravo 1 and tailing the Virgin Australia. All right?”“Yup, Cheers, I can see you on screen, enjoy your flight.”
“Will try. British Airways to Tower, out.”Sarah smiled to herself. It was a perfect day for flying. Barely a cloud in sight.
***At last. They had their spot on the runway. Everyone was seated and strapped in. Everything was set.
“Auto-flaps ready.”“Yes. You’re getting nervous.”
“Sorry captain.”“Okay, Engine gear from idle to 30 IRP. Engine 1,2,3,4, forward acceleration”
“Check sir. We’re moving.”“12 knots”
“28 knots”“43 knots”
“56 knots, 25 IRP’s… 67 knots 28 IRP’s… Setting to 60 IRP’s… Forward acceleration on lock.”“83 knots. Rate of IRP is… too fast. It’s all right. ”
“94 knots”106 knots sir… 112 knots past V1 Point 1… 127 knots… V1 Point 2… V1 Point 3 and 139 knots. IRP 90”
“150 knots… 156 knots… (Thud) airborne tell that to the tower.”“Okay sir… 2398 to tower, we are airborne…”
***Carlo Roguez was on ATC station 19 monitoring the airspace around Manchester airport. He was quite laid back. The weather was good and he was only expecting 25 flights an hour. He made himself a coffee at the machine and took it back to his work station. He decided that it was time to make contact with some newer flights…
“Umm, BA 2398 this is ATC at Liverpool. Climb to two niner zero. Your name on radar is now BA2398IT3.”“Hello Liverpool Just climbing through two fiver zero feet. Grant climb to three three zero feet…?”
“Just a minute…. Permission granted. Climb to three three zero feet. Could you mind an Alaska flight though? It’s about 60 airo-nautical miles ahead of you. Next point 10 airo-nautical miles.”“Gee someone’s grumpy today.” That was one of the last times the captain ever smiled.
***At the launch site things were tense. People were excited about the launch but also worried. Matt was one of those people. What if the rocket got blown off course and had to use extra fuel to get it back on course? It wouldn’t reach orbit…. It might turn around and explode… so many things could go wrong. Matt’s pager bleeped. They needed him in the…. Radar control room? That certainly was unusual. It was restricted airspace. Nothing was in the air for miles around. So why did they need him?
***Co-pilot Alex was getting a bit bored. After take-off they had nothing to do in the cockpit.
“Shall I make a speech sir?”“Yes, yes, of course.”
Alex picked up the micro phone.“Hello passengers, this is your co-pilot speaking. Welcome on board British airways flight seven to Italy. I sincerely thank you for choosing to fly with us. The seat belt sign will be coming off soon. May I please remind you that smoking is strictly forbidden on this airline. My steward and stewardesses will be coming round and serving drinks soon. Thank you and enjoy your flight.”
***Matt ran into the radar room. About ten people were hunched around a screen. Matt pushed his way to the front. In the green area (which he guessed was the restricted airspace) there was a single moving red dot. Coming up to the green area were 5 blue dots. The blue dots were in a triangle.
“An aircraft is in our airspace. It looks like it might be a spy plane, but we’re not sure...”“What are the blue dots?” asked Matt.
“Fighter jets, F16’s, the best we could scramble.”“Who could the aircraft belong too? Terrorists?”
“Maybe. It might be one of the Middle East countries; you know they want to launch satellites into space.”“Have you called ATC at all?”
“As a matter of fact, Matt we have. They say that it’s just a civilian aircraft and not to take action.” That voice sent shivers down Matts back. It was his boss. He hated his boss. In fact he liked to think of his boss as Professor Snape from Harry Potter!“What plane is it?”
“Air Traffic Control claims it as… a British airways plane going by the screen name of BA2398IT3, they say that it’s a civilian plane and that it’s just gone of course. I don’t believe the filthy liars of course!” Matt wished that his boss would just shut up.Then another man called up; “We can intercept the aircraft. The F-16’s have it in their scopes.
Then an old man, about 50 said; “Well what are waiting for man? They could blow your rocket to smithereens any second now. Just let our jets blow them up first!”Matt thought for a second. His satellite could change the world. It had taken years of planning and construction. “Fine,” Matt went to the micro phone “Approach target and destroy.”
***Almost immediately the two middle jets peeled off in a different direction. They would go and mark the wings. The back left jet branched off and went to the cockpit. The back right jet would mark the back and the front jet went out to lock its missiles onto the ‘spy plane. It would also relay live video feed to the radar control room at the launch site. The operation had been practised hundreds of times in case it was needed for the Olympics.
***A stewardess opened the door into the cockpit. Her face was a picture of worry.
“Captain, Captain!”“Yes, Gloria?”
“The passengers are getting alarmed sir, there are fighter jets circling the aeroplane.”“What?!” exclaimed captain Omar.
Alex Reed had never seen a captain so angry before. “Tell Air Traffic Control that, yes we have VIPs on-board but we do not, I repeat DO NOT NEED A PRIVATE ESCORT!!!”“Yes captain, sir, yes indeed I will.” Alex paused, and then picked up the microphone to the cabin. “Hello passengers please do not be alarmed about the jets. They are nothing to worry about. Just a precaution for this flight.
“Air Traffic Control, Air Traffic Control do you copy? Give permission to climb to three fivers zero fivers?”“Air Traffic Control, unreadable, unreadable. Switch to band 8, Frequency 119.3.”
“British airways to Delta Air Traffic Control band 8 frequency 119.3, reading?”“Crystal clear British Airways.”
“Do you give permission for us to rise to three fivers zero fiver?”“Permission Granted”
“Hey, erm, do you know anything about fighter jets in the area?”“Um… No, why?”
“Doesn’t matter. 2398 to delta control, out”Co-Pilot Reed Turned on the seat belt sign. Captain Omar walked into the cock-pit.
“All sorted I think.”“Yeah, I just called our new controller. He’s a bit confused about the jets and all too.”
“Well, I take it we climb to thirty five and a half thousand feet, right?”“Yes, that’s correct sir.”
Captain Omar sat down. Both men pulled up on their control columns. The plane climbed. The aircraft and all it passengers and crew, had their fate sealed…
***Major Gennadi Osipovich was a Russian pilot. He was in the British airforce. He was leading the squadron with his missiles armed. A call came in. He didn’t recognise the voice thought he perfectly understood his instructions. ‘Approach Target and Destroy’
He sent out a rapped stream of conversation to his military boss at the radar station.“Target travelling at high speed and approaching unrestricted boarder.”
“Well then, switch to module two, and target is on your heading. Over”“Give warning burst with cannon.”
A stream of bullets went by un-noticed. But it didn’t matter, because their fate was already sealed. The plane’s nose went up. Major Gennadi mistook this for an evasive move.“All F-16’s pull away. The craft is pulling up.”
Matts voice came back on the radio. “Approach Target and DESTROY before THEY destroy MY SPACE CRAFT!”The F-16’s responded.
***On-board flight 2398 Co-pilot Alex tried to keep his voice calm. “Captain… the, the planes, they’re branching off, away from us.”
“Captain Omar gave him a smile. Don’t worry. They probably realise that they’re wasting time following us.”Joshua Omar never smiled again. The plane carried on climbing.
***“Take up position for attack.”
“Rodger, target in visual, missiles armed and locked. Everything is to protocol.”“Destroy target, launch, launch, launch, launched.” At that very moment, 2 air to air missiles went streaming towards the plane at over 2000 kilometres per hour. The first one hit the tail. The second hit the wing. It was an automatic twin engine flame out. The lights on the tail went out.
“Major Gennadi to base. Target is destroyed.”“Well done, good work.”
Major Gennadi Osipovich turned and went back to base thinking that he had just shot down an enemy spy plane.
***On the plane it was a scene of chaos. Due to the explosion there had been a rapid decompression. The cabin was filled with white smoke as all the oxygen was sucked out of the plane. The oxygen masks deployed and a screeching alarm repeated through the cabin. “Decompression, put the masks over your head and adjust the head rest.”
In the cockpit the scene was even more chaotic. About thirty different alarms filled the cockpit and the pilots still had no idea what had happened. The plane was diving. They were losing altitude. The plane was going down. Another alarm came on in the cockpit. ‘Fire in Cabin, Fire in Cabin, Fire in Cabin.”The captain screamed. “Holy S*** what’s happening?” This line was blocked out by even more desperate screams from the cabin. The plane gave a massive bump and the co-pilot’s head smashed onto the manual auxiliary power control box. Blood came streaming from the co-pilots nose and all over the cockpit. The plane slashed through a cloud and the back half of the plane was sucked right out of the rivets that held it together. It took a few seconds for the captain to gather that they were separated from the wings and tail. The plane gave one last desperate spin. But they had fought a losing battle. Impact. Their world went black…