“Have we flown together before?,” he asked his co-pilot.
“I doubt it.”
“Sgt Thyagarajan”, Phantom introduced himself.
“Karun Krishna Majumdar. Nice to meet you”, his co-pilot said, shaking his hand.
“The pleasure is all mine.”
Phantom Thyagarajan was known for his ‘by the book’ attitude, whereas K. K. “Jumbo” Majumdar was a little reckless. They were to compliment each other well in the mission. They were among the finest in the Air Force. Phantom was a born leader and Jumbo, a daredevil of a pilot, both were efficient in completing assignments.
“Aren’t you supposed to be dead in the plane crash in France last year, Captain Thyagarajan?”, inquired Jumbo.
“My friends don’t call me Phantom for no reason. I survived the crash, but decided to remain dead to the world. Being dead has its advantages.”
“Are you afraid of Mother Nature, Jumbo?”
“We are not taught that in training, Captain.”
“Neither was I. But sometimes it feels we are so tiny as compared to the world!”
“Thank you”, replied Phantom.
“... and the manifest including the two passengers on board.”
Jumbo started the checks prior to the flight. “Oxygen check. Engine Instruments check. Airspeeds alive, both sides. Eighty knots, crosscheck.”
“Roger that. Right One Two Zero. Climb and maintain niner thousand.” Jumbo did as instructed.
“Topsy 473, Matsuyama departure, how is the weather?”
“Departure, this is Topsy 473. We have turbulence. Severe turbulence.”
“You all right?” Jumbo asked.
“Yeah, definitely. Turn the aircraft 20 degrees left, and increase airspeed. We need the speed to go through the clouds.”
“Departure, this is Topsy 473. We need to deviate 20 degrees left for weather.”
“Topsy 473, 20 degrees left approved. Report back on course.”
“Don’t worry, mate. I am going to get you out of this in no time.” Jumbo pushed the throttle lever further forward, and the aircraft continued on its ascent. Jumbo was attempting to find a break in the clouds, causing the ride to be even more turbulent.
Jumbo pulled down the throttle, as the speed went down. “Control’s all yours now.” He said, looking at Phantom. Little did he know what was to follow.
“Topsy 473, this is Tokyo Centre. Descent and maintain level three zero zero.”
“Roger that Tokyo Centre, descent and maintain level three zero zero.” As soon as Jumbo touched the control wheel, something snapped. The control wheels got locked in position, and the plane suddenly pitched into an uncontrolled dive.
“The elevator feels really stiff!” Jumbo was panicking at this moment.
Steering mechanisms failed, and the plane started losing altitude rapidly. Phantom remained calm as ever. All of his life right from a rookie to a Sergeant flashed in front of his eyes- his recruitment, the narrow escape from the crash in France.
“We’ve lost hydraulics.” Phantom said.
“Center, this is Topsy 473. Mayday. Mayday! We have lost our hydraulics. We are in an uncontrolled dive.”
“We would need drag. Dump out the fuel,” Phantom instructed Jumbo.
“Next, I need you to take out the brakes and the gear.”
“Brakes. Gear. Down.” It wasn’t of much help. The plane continued in its dive.
“Next to my seat, you should see a lever that says manual control. I need you to pull it up, turn it clockwise and push it back down.” Jumbo did exactly as he was told.
“That’s great. Come on.”
The manual control helped Phantom level the plane, and also helped lower it’s speed- atleast by a little. This enabled the plane to crash land on its belly rather than the nose hitting the ground.
What happened after the crash? Who was the high valued person on board? Did he survive? Do let me know in the comments.