Captain Sherwood

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Other  |  House: Booksie Classic

A Microlight pilot is called on to land a passenger plane.

Submitted: July 11, 2018

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Submitted: July 11, 2018



“Crikey, what has happened here?” said Jim as he entered the cockpit, closely followed by Sarah.

Sarah just stood looking around at the mess that was the cockpit. “I don't know, there seems to have been some sort of explosion on the Co-pilot's side. The Co-pilot's seat is not operational and the Pilot and Co-pilot are incapacitated.”

“You mean they're...”

“No, they are just unconscious, we have them in the Steward's seats so that we don't worry the passengers.”

Jim looked at some of the dials that were still working. “Do you have a back-up plan for emergencies like this?”

“Yes, we get our staff on the ground to check the background of the passengers and see who among them is able to fly.”

Jim stopped and looked straight at her. “Now wait just one damn minute, I can't fly this plane, not without a bit of practice first.”

Sarah blocked his exit. “Your record shows that you have a pilot's license and that you've tried to get a job on commercial airlines.”

“Yes, that's right I got my Pilot's license but I've spent the last three years trying to get a job as a pilot. Every time I got refused, and now you want me to land this plane. Are you mad?”

“Mad or not you're the only pilot we've got. Surely you must have kept flying somewhere?”

Jim leant on the back of the pilot's seat. “Yes, I fly a microlight, it's all I can afford. It keeps my flight time up, but I can't just single handedly leap into the pilot's seat of a plane this size and hope to land it successfully.”

“You'll just have to try, there isn't anybody else.”

Jim turned towards the door that was still being blocked by Sarah. “I can't. Don't you understand? All I've flown for the last three years is a hang glider with a motor on the back. I can't just fly everything that is in the air.”

Sarah took a step towards him and when she was right in his face she said, “Okay, when you've finished putting yourself down, perhaps I can make you understand something. There are 57 passengers and crew on this plane. There are only three with pilot's licenses. The two employed by this airline are unconscious back there; the other one is you. You might not fancy the odds, but believe me you're the best hope we have.”

Jim could tell by the look in her eye that he could not win the argument, and though he did not want to admit it, he knew she was right. “All right, let's get on the radio and see if they can get someone to talk me down.”

Sarah let him get settled in the Pilot’s seat. “That won't be possible. The radio can only send and receive over a short distance, we were in contact with the ground through a plane that was flying alongside us but it had to refuel. We were just pleased it could stay long enough to warn the airport that we were coming in, and help us locate a pilot.”

“Hell, this just gets better and better. Will we even be cleared to land?”

“Yes, keep heading on this course at this altitude you'll soon see the runway. All other air traffic has been diverted so we can land straight away.”

Jim rubbed the arm of the pilot's chair. “All right, I'll do the best I can, but you really must try and find another passenger that knows what they are doing. I cannot land this plane on my own, they and you, will all die unless you can find someone else.”

“I'll do my best, but I really don't think there is anyone,” said Sarah, and then she left the flight deck.

Jim spent about ten minutes checking the instruments and constantly glancing back to see whether Sarah was coming with the cavalry. He finally sat back. “What the hell is going on? I spend three years trying to get a job as a pilot; no luck. I come out for a quiet flight and suddenly I'm asked to fly the plane solo. No simulator; no supervised training flights, just straight into the hot seat.”

A man entered the cockpit and said “Perhaps I can be of some assistance?”

“Not unless you know how to fly a plane.”

“Well,” said the man as he sat in the other seat, “actually, yes I do. I've flown these many times, I'm Captain Sherwood.”

“Great, I'm Jim.” He was hastily trying to get unbuckled. “We'll have to change seats though, that one isn't operational.”

Captain Sherwood gestured for Jim to stay put. “No, don't worry, you land the plane.”

“I can't, that's the point.”

“You'll do fine; I'll be here to advise you if anything should go wrong.”

Jim had got the seat belt undone. “It'll be much safer for all concerned if you land it yourself.”

Captain Sherwood looked straight ahead, not wanting to meet Jim's gaze. “I can't.”

“What do you mean, you can't. I thought you said you had flown a lot of these, this is no time for bullshit.”

“It was no lie, I have flown these planes many times, but I can't fly them anymore. I don't have a license.”

Jim was desperate, “That's ridiculous, this is no time to hide behind rules and regulations.”

“I'm not hiding behind anything. I'm not allowed to fly this plane and that's all there is to it. They took away my license for health reasons.”

Jim knew that there were reasons they took licenses away and that it could be dangerous to let such a pilot fly. He assumed that Sherwood must be epileptic or something. “All right, but don't bail on me.”

Captain Sherwood smiled. “While there is a chance I can help get this plane down, I'm going to stay right here. It looks like I won't have to wait long either.”

“You won't?”

Captain Sherwood nodded toward the windscreen. “The runway is in sight.”

Jim sat bold upright and grabbed the controls. “Oh hell, here we go.”

“Just stay calm, you'll do fine. Now switch off the autopilot and take the controls.”

Jim did as instructed. “Whoa!”

“Come on, take control of it. Bring it round, that's it.”

“Hey it's not so bad.”

Captain Sherwood patted the dead controls in front of him. “These old birds almost fly themselves, you just have to be ready for their little foibles.”

“I liked the fly themselves bit, but then you had to go on and mention the foibles. Why did you do that?”

“To keep you on your toes, now come on start your descent. That's it, good; a bit farther.”

“We're nearly there, it looks good to me.”

“Get ready though, this plane tends to drop a bit when the airspeed slows, so get ready to give it a bit more power.”

Jim was concentrating intently. “Okay; easy.”

“That's it, just a little left rudder. Perfect; are you sure you haven't flown one of these before?” Suddenly the plane dropped. “There you go, give her a bit more power.”

Jim pushed the throttle forward. “Wow, good job you warned me.”

“Don't mention it. Is your undercarriage down?”

“I just put the plane's down, my personal undercarriage has been down since we turned the autopilot off.”

Sherwood smiled. “Just keep the nose up.”

“All right, here we go.”

The landing was a little bumpier than normal, but between Jim's growing confidence and Captain Sherwood's instructions it was without incident.

Jim turned to Sherwood. “We did it.”

You did it, congratulations. Now I had better get back.” Sherwood got straight up from the seat and headed back to the seating area.

Jim sat back in the seat and was letting the stress run out of him when Sarah came up to the flight deck. “Hey, well done,” she said. “Not even a bumped head back there. I can't believe you made such a fuss about landing this plane.”

Jim looked back at her and grinned. “I'm just glad you found him.”

Sarah was puzzled. “Found who?”

“Come on, the joke’s over. You knew I couldn't get us down by myself. Where did you find him? You said there were no other pilots on board.”

“I have no idea what you're talking about. I was telling you the truth before, there are no other pilots on board. I asked around behind, as subtly as I could but there was no-one. I didn't want to come and tell you because I thought it might worry you, so I just sat back there and hoped for the best.”

Jim thought for a moment. “He must have heard you asking around and not said anything. He doesn't have a license anymore and he was adamant that he could not do anything to land the plane. I guess he didn't show up on any of the databases at ground control because his pilot's license had been revoked.”

“Who are you talking about?”

“Captain Sherwood.”

Sarah got up and said sharply, “That's not funny.”

“What isn't?”

“You know.”

Jim hit the controls in frustration. “No I don't know actually. All I do know is that I was thrust into a very difficult situation with no-one to help. Then suddenly Captain Sherwood came in and sat next to me. He gave me a bit of advice at all the right times and because of that I got us down safely. It would be nice to get a bit of gratitude for him as well as me.”

There was silence and then Sarah almost whispered, her voice almost breaking up. “A little over a year and a half ago, a plane much like this one was cleared for landing and was on final approach. As it neared the runway, the plane suddenly dropped and it crashed just short of the runway. Captain Sherwood was the pilot of that plane. There were no survivors and the evidence from the flight recorder and the debris was inconclusive. The hearing found that the accident was either the result of pilot error or mechanical failure.”

Jim said simply “It wasn't pilot error.”

© Copyright 2019 Kevin Broughton. All rights reserved.

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