Chapter 12. Snarge: Blended Bird
Sitting in the right hand seat, Tom showed Kaylee how to take the controls.
Tapping a few displays, a chime sounded while Kaylee held on to the stick that guided the large aircraft towards their destination under Tom’s watchful eye.
“Now you are flying it.” Tom smiled. “Just hold the stick gently.”
“There is so much power in this stick.” She laughed slowly pulling to the right to bank the plane when Tom showed her when for a course correction. “This reminds me of a poem. To touch the face of God. ”
“The passionate artist in you is coming out.” Tom chuckled.
“We will be landing soon.” He said, after looking at the displays. “I want to take you on a low tour of this area to show you where we will be wine tasting at.”
Tom pushed forward on the stick and banked the Flying Sea Dragon slowly while talking into his earphones. She listened to him become all professional, deciding that he was talking to San Francisco by the sound of it.
“There, we have permission to fly low.” Tom looked at the displays. “Passing through four-thousand feet.”
“Yeah, about a thousand feet. Maybe less. As slow as possible and still fly.” He smiled. “I’ll fly it by hand and make a big figure-8 over the area.”
“Sounds fun.” She smiled. “Maybe I can flash someone down there.”
“Yeah… No.” Tom laughed. “You would cause us to crash.”
“Who do you think would be staring?”
Kaylee laughed as she bumped him with her hip as she walked back to change her clothes and began to pull on her walking shoes when a chime sounded that drew Tom’s attention.
“What?” Tom said in an irritated voice to the display. What he looked at was not visible to Kaylee .
“Kaylee , sit down, put on a seat belt.” Tom ordered. “Now! We have a flock of birds…”
Alarms sounded and Tom yelled a profanity.
“Fire in engine one!” Just as something large hit windscreen with a loud “THUMP” and obliterated the view outside with reds and browns.
“OhHellNo.” He said it as one word. “Bird strike! BIRDSTRIKE.”
Alarms sounded and lights flashed on the display panels as the plane took a decided change in direction. Tom struggled to straighten out the plane and called an emergency into his headset.
“Affirmative, cleared for Stockton.” Tom was all business as Kaylee struggled with the seatbelt.
Another alarm sounded. A loud bang from the rear of the plane, more profanity from her husband.
“Uhh… Negative, not going to make Stockton, we are losing power in engine number two, going to set it down on the highway.” Tom swore a stream of words that surprised her. He did not talk that way since she had met him.
“Dammit! Too much traffic. OH YAY! Look! Water!” Tom yelled at no one in particular. “Come on you Flying freakin’ Sea Dragon, Kaylee is too cute to die.”
A long straight canal was on the far side of the highway, pushing the number-two throttle forward he was able to coax more thrust out of the remaining engine.
“Engine two is spinning up again. We have some extra power.” Tom said into the microphone. “We have a canal to set down in just west of the freeway.”
More lights flashed information in the pilot’s console. Amber and red display flashed as Tom pulled on the stick, commanding the wounded metal bird to do his bidding.
“Flaps full.” Putting his hand on a knob that was already at it’s maximum. “We want to come in as slow as possible here.”
“Landing gear up. Check. That would be unfortunate to put down in water with wheels down.” Tom gave a smile to Kaylee .
“Now it is like always. Easy into the water.”
The plane passed so low over the lanes of cars, she could see the people’s faces as they looked up. In one red mini-van, she could see the face of a small child staring while she rode in the car seat as the big jet rocketed the divided lanes of the interstate and over the water.
Lined up, Tom put the flying boat down with room to spare on both sides.
“Hang on to something.” Tom warned through gritted teeth when he brought the plane down to a rough but safe water landing.
Talking into the microphone on his headset, Tom told the flight control where they were. “Lat.” Tom said with a series of numbers and then softly spoke the word “Long.” with another sequence that Kaylee did not understand.
“Made it!” Tom smiled wryly as he put down the headset and shutting down the engines. “That was fun in a twisted way.”
“Tom?” Her jaw dropped at his cavalier tone. “TOM! How do you think this was…”
“Sorry,” He interrupted. “I need to check the engines to make sure we don’t need to abandon ship.”
“What do you mean, “Abandon Ship”?”
“If we have a fire, I want you safe. This place could burn to the waterline and I need to drop an anchor to keep us from going aground.”
He walked to the main hatch that opened left side of the plane, opened a door of a closet next to the entrance and pulled out an anchor attached to a heavy chain. A rope as thick as her thumb, he threw the anchor out then waited for a count of three, then tied the rope to a ring in the door frame.
Then he walked past his wife who was changing colors from pale to livid.
“My god.” Kaylee gasped. “We are still in danger?”
Tom climbed up a ladder to a hatch and opened it then disappeared up through the hole. It was the same kind of hatch that they had used more than once to sunbathe between the engines of the Pacific Wizard.
“Tom?” Kaylee looked up from the foot of the ladder to the hatch.
“Come on up! We are safe, you might be interested in what happened.” He called down and she climbed the ladder, like she had done many times before, then she was giggling and happy, now she was beginning to shake.
Tom stood by the engine, there were several dents in the leading edge with traces of a brownish goo and feathers in the fan blades of the turbine.
“What’s this?” She asked. “Blood?”
“Well, the official term is “snarge”, it is what is left of a bird when it gets sucked into an engine it at speed.”
“A combination of the words, snot and garbage.” Tom nodded while looking in the engine as Kaylee made a face, she felt she might get sick and walked over to the edge of the wing to vomit into the water below. But she held on to her insides.
“Damn, this did a number on the engine. There are vanes missing everywhere.” Tom gave a heavy sigh. “We were lucky to not have it happen to the other engine.”
He walked over to the opposite side, running his hands over nacelle’s leading edge, tracing his fingers over dents that were there, but the engine appeared undamaged.
“Oh poop. Another problem.” Tom spoke as he turned and watched the Fire Department tried try to back off the road to the edge of the water. An ambulance followed by a sheriff unit trundled down the dirt road with lights flashing. “We are anchored farther out than they can reach. We’ll need to use the rubber boat to pull it closer to shore.”
“How do you do that?”
“Well, not much of a motor, but it will work after a fashion. Even if I need to drop two anchors and pull us by a winch.”
“Wait… anchors? Boat anchors?”
“Yes, four. In case I need to stay in a harbor with foul weather and unable find a hanger or fly to safety out of the path of a storm.”
“Why is it so bad?” She shook her head. “This is the worst thing to happen.”
“Worst?” Tom shook his head. “Naw. We’re alive.”
“I want to go home.” She looked at him. “Now!”
“Okay, once the Fantasy secured, there will be a limo pick you up and you will catch the flight to Ocean Bay.”
Tom sighed heavily as he pulled his phone from its holster and tapped on the screen a few times, and nodded. Then he swiped a finger over the screen.
“Mo? It’s Tom Harte. Say, I need a ride for someone and I’m not at a normal location.” Tom looked at Kaylee sadly as she climbed down the ladder back into the cabin of the jet.
Long minutes passed before he climbed back down into the cabin and found Kaylee curled up on a couch. Her legs pulled up and she was hugging herself in a fetal position.
“A limo will pick you up on shore and I have chartered a plane to take you back home. I will stay here to meet with the FAA, there will be questions.” Tom said softly.
Kaylee nodded and quietly wept into her knees.
Tom walked without a word to the front of the flying boat. At the door, he opened the shoulder-wide closet, and lifted out a bundle and put it in the water. Carefully finding a handle, he pulled firmly, causing a rubber boat to inflate at the door. An electric motor he quietly released from a recess in the closet then attached it to the mount on the back of the boat. With waterproof cables and a practiced touch, Tom had the rubber skiff ready in moments, then went to work.
He sat in the boat and the electric motor seemed that the twenty-foot boat would be woefully underpowered to move the jet, but after a minute, the machines began to move. Painfully slow in the beginning, then with gathering speed, against the flow of the rising tide, Tom was able to bring it within range of the fire department to reach across to the wing with ladders and anchored it with three anchor lines strung from the shore to keep it secure.
Inside the plane, delayed panic turned into anger at her brush with disaster, she blamed him for putting them in jeopardy.
Showing off nearly killed them, and she was not sure she wanted on the plane, any plane, ever again.
She had never been so frightened in her life and it made her angry, and he had promised! He was a supposed protector and her personal hero.
Her personal hero? Hero’s did not put their people in danger.
He was no hero. He was a… Loser.
It was the only insult she could think of just then.
*I don’t care if he is an author and has money.* She wept. *He almost killed us just to show off. Like a boy with his dad’s car.*
It was the most angry she had ever been at anyone in her life, she could not even look at him.
She wanted to go home, as far away from the plane, the man and this wine country, as he called it, as she could.