Chapter 9: Chapter 9

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

Reads: 234

Chapter 9

Aboard Cherokee 9213J
North end of Lake Erie, over Canadian airspace
1600

Robert studied his iPad and the Canadian charts he used to ensure that he was keeping clear of any Canadian military areas or other areas that might cause some sort of international conflict. Southwest of Hamilton Airport, in Hamilton, Canada, Robert’s Distance Measuring Equipment (DME) came alive.

“Fifty miles from Buffalo VOR station,” Robert said out loud.

“I don’t really care,” Mitch said, somewhat annoyed.

“Well, we’ll be flying right over Niagara Falls.”

“What? Why would you do something stupid like that?” Mitch asked.

“Because we don’t have the fuel to go around.”

“No, we need to go around it,” Mitch insisted.

“Okay, Mitch, use some logic for once,” Robert scolded.

“What do you mean?” Mitch asked.

“We’ve been flying for two hours. Look at the fuel gauges.”

“Okay, half tank,” Mitch replied.

“Look at the other side.”

“What?”

Robert pointed out both square gauges which indicated between ten and fifteen gallons in each.

“We took off with a total of fifty gallons of gas. So, do the math,” Robert said.

Robert knew that the gauges showed a little lower than what they actually had, but that was information that he was willing to let slip. He had to avoid anything that could give Mitch the upper hand.

“So, what you’re saying is that we barely have enough gas to get where we are going?” Mitch asked.

“We have just enough. And that’s if the winds stay like they are,” Robert replied.

Mitch sat back in his seat, looking somewhat uneasy, like he was thinking of what to do next.

Robert was scanning the whole horizon in front of them. He could see for probably a hundred miles, and he could make out the distinct landscape which looked different than the rest. He surmised that the landscape change was Niagara Falls, and the plane was tracking right towards it.

Within thirty minutes, the towns of Niagara and Buffalo were sitting below the window and the wings.

The quiet airplane gave way to mild radio chatter over the land of Lake Ontario and Lake Erie. “Cleveland Center, Endeavor five-two-seven-seven, we have a pilot report for you.”

“Endeavor five-two-seven-seven, Cleveland Center, go ahead with your PIREP,” the controller said.

Robert, who had previously lowered the volume on the radio, turned up the sound so as to get a better idea of what was going on, airspace wise.

“Over Golf Echo Echo VOR, encountered moderate chop between eight and thirteen, also light mixed icing. Tops are fourteen thousand.”

“Endeavor five-two-seven-seven, roger, thanks for the update.”

Roberts ears perked up. “We have a problem,” he said, sounding somewhat stressed.
“What’s that?” Mitch asked.

“A plane in front of us reported moderate turbulence, clouds with icing.” Robert applied power and began a cruise climb from eleven thousand. The altimeter climbed at a rate of four hundred feet per minute.

“What does that mean?” Mitch asked.

“It means if we get that ice on the wings, we are dead. With this cold air, there is no recovering from iced wings,” John chimed in.

“John,” Robert said, “I only have one tiny can of supplemental oxygen that should last at most thirty minutes, and I’m climbing to fifteen thousand. I think it’s just a squall line, not more than fifty miles long. Nothing was showing on the long-range forecast models, so it should be short-lived.”

John looked up at Robert.

“Can you reach back to one of my storage bins? There should be a small oxygen can and a nasal canula attached to it.”

“Sure thing. You know we will be hypoxic, but if we help one another, we should be okay.”

“What’s hypoxia?” Mitch asked.

“You’ll find out,” John said.

John removed his seatbelt and maneuvered himself to slip up into the front right seat of the Cherokee after finding the small canister of supplemental oxygen.

“I’ve got visual on the clouds,” Robert said.

“Yeah, I do too. Some of those tops might be a factor. Let’s just punch our way around them. What is this?” John asked, holding up a small Raspberry Pi computer and an attached antenna.

“Oh fuck, I forgot that I had that,” Robert replied.

“Yeah, but what is it?”

“It’s an ADS-B receiver,” Robert said.

“ADS-B?” Mitch asked curiously.

“It’s Automated Dependent Broadcasting. And I have the receiver for it,” Robert said.

“Broadcasting our airplane?” Mitch asked.
“Eventually, by two thousand twenty, all airplanes will be required to have it,” Robert replied.

“What does it do?” Mitch asked.

“Updated weather and traffic for whoever has it,” Robert said.

“So, they can track us?” Mitch asked.

“Eventually, but I don’t have it installed on the airplane yet. It only receives data. Doesn’t transmit it out,” Robert replied.

Robert paused for a moment, thinking of all the times that he could have installed the equipment. If he had, there would have been no reason for him to risk anything. The controllers would have automatically seen the tail numbers on their screens, and it would have prevented a lot of useless conversation.

The plane managed to fly over the first cloud bank at thirteen thousand feet. Robert leaned the engine even more to get the appropriate air and fuel mixture for the higher altitude operations.

“The cloud banks are getting higher,” John said.

“Yes, higher than I can climb,” Robert replied nervously.

Suddenly, everything outside of the airplane went a sort of golden milky color. Visibility dropped to zero. Nobody could even see the wing tips.

“Pitot heat, on. Carb ice is on,” Robert said urgently.

The airplane emerged from the other side of the cloud. The two men intently studied the wings on each side.
“I’ve got nothing out here,” John said.

“Yeah, same here,” Robert replied.

Robert and John looked out in front of them to see trace amounts of ice sticking to the windscreen.

“John, can you pull the defrosters?” Robert asked.

John pulled the defrost knob out and a rush of scalding hot air rushed onto the molded Plexiglas. Within moments, the ice that did affix melted away and the windscreen was clear again.

“What’s our altitude?” John asked.

“Fourteen five,” Robert replied.

Robert grabbed his oxygen tank and hose. He plugged the nasal canula into his nose and wrapped the hose around his ears comfortably. The slight flow of air gave a sort of relaxing sensation.

“Five hundred more feet to go,” John said.

The airplane flew into another cloud bank.

Robert pushed the throttle all the way in and leaned the engine out even more to get its maximum performance for that altitude.

The climb slowed a bit more to about 150 feet per minute.

The airplane cleared the cloud bank again.

“Clear on this side,” Robert said.

“I’ve got some buildup here,” John said.

The airplane finally cleared fifteen thousand feet and Robert trimmed the airplane out for level flight again.

The plane accelerated somewhat, which presented a slight climb.

As the plane settled at fifteen thousand feet, the turbulence started to become another factor, pushing the airplane from side to side and rocking the wings.

“A couple of good bumps,” John said.

Robert looked back at Mitch, who was trying to fasten his seatbelt.

“Yeah, that’s a good idea. Too bad you didn’t listen beforehand,” Robert said sarcastically.

Mitch and John began to exhibit signs of hypoxia, their fingertips turning a sort of cherry red. John’s breathing was noticeably faster, and his heart rate was increasing rapidly.

Mitch began to cough a little bit, and his face also turned red, beads of sweat pouring down his face.

“It’s hot in here,” Mitch said.

“No, you’re hypoxic,” John said.
“How do you fix it?” Mitch asked.

“We have to land,” Robert replied.

“You’ll be fine,” John said sarcastically, looking over at Robert, who had, for the first time, cracked a smile.

After thirty minutes of hanging out in the higher altitudes, the cloud bank began to break up and a frontal line was just ahead of them. Mitch and John began to exhibit signs of severe hypoxia, including the feelings of euphoria.

As soon as the clouds passed and the plane soared in front of the weak cold front, Robert began a slow and deliberate descent back down to the eleven-thousand-foot altitude, where hypoxia wouldn’t have an effect on them.

By the time Robert descended below the magical 12,000-foot level, which signifies who needs what in in terms of regulations, Mitch had passed out due to the lack of oxygen, and John had started to lose consciousness.

Robert took the moment of his captor being incapacitated to use the radio.

He keyed the mic. “Center, Cherokee niner-two-one-three Juliet.”  He turned up the volume slightly to ensure that he could hear the other voice.

“Cherokee one-three Juliet, how do you hear center?” the controller asked.

“We have you loud and clear. The captor is recovering from hypoxia, so I only have a moment,” Robert replied.

“Niner two one three Juliet, this is Vision Jet two-five-two Charlie Victor,” Joel said. “We are following you. Understand you’re heading over to Marlboro, Mass?”

The voice filling the headset was unfamiliar to Robert “Who is this?” he asked skeptically.

“I’m Joel Nordman, from the FBI. We’ve been trying to follow and catch up to you.”

“Joel, I’m Robert. We are okay for now. Yes, we are…” Robert glanced back to Mitch, who had started to wake up from his hypoxic nap.

“Cherokee nine-two-one-three Juliet. Robert,” Joel called out over the radio.

There was silence.

Robert turned the radio down to the point that nobody in the cabin could hear the radio traffic and turned off the isolation button again.

As the altitude decreased, John’s skin turned a normal color and all the main symptoms of hypoxia lessened. Mitch, however, had a severe headache.

“What the fuck happened?” he asked.

“You passed out from the lack of oxygen,” John said.

“I feel like I was hit by a fucking freight train,” Mitch replied.

 “I bet,” Robert replied.

Robert himself had a pounding headache, originating where he had been pistol-whipped. Even with the supplemental oxygen, he was also still mildly hypoxic, because the oxygen only helped for so long, and it depleted on the descent.

“Definitely a concussion,” Robert said to himself.

 

 

Aboard Cirrus Vision Jet 252CV

 

Joel and Steve discussed the charts—where they were and where they wanted to land if, in fact, Marlboro was the intended landing spot for the hijacked airplane.

“Well, so far we have some information,” Joel said.

“According to the PIREP, the tops were well over fourteen thousand feet, and the plane was capable of climbing over it,” Scott said.

“That explains why and how Mitchell passed out,” Joel replied.

“Okay, so we are going to land at Buffalo, and then we are going to refuel the jet and take off right away. Minimal ground time,” Joel announced to everyone in the cabin.

“What do you think their plan is?” Mark asked.

“I don’t know, but I’m planning on filling up and orbiting since our partners will be on the ground,” Joel replied.

 


Submitted: April 08, 2019

© Copyright 2021 Tim W. Nordberg. All rights reserved.

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