Jake tightened up the turn as the “enemy” fighter closed into gun range. At 250 feet AGL he really didn’t have a lot of places to go. That beast can really turn, he thought. Well, get out of the attack plane and turn some more to force the overshoot and maybe Lead will have a shot at him. Wonder where the second bad guy went? Uh-oh!
Jake shoved the stick forward and to the opposite corner of the cockpit. Nothing happened! The bank angle slowly increased and the nose dropped in a rather mushy manner. The sides of the canopy, and now the top, began to fill with a brownish green color.
Uh-oh, Jake’s brain responded. Time to get out of here.
The nonresponding stick and throttles were released and both seat handles were raised.
Peter was tired. It had been a long shift as duty officer, and, no matter how important the job was, on occasion it still wore him down.
I will be glad to get a break, Peter sighed. Wonder what the weather guys will….
A buzz from another duty officer cut off his thoughts.
“Sir, Aviation Branch, I have a fighter in trouble that I think you need to see.”
“Okay,” replied the weary duty officer. “Put it up.”
A bright image appeared before Peter. There was Jake’s fighter frozen in a rolling right turn, nose dropping and the soil not very distant. The canopy was gone and Jake could be seen sitting in the seat as it started up the rails. “Up” being a relative term because the vector was now below the horizon.
Ouch!Thought Peter as he examined the scene. “Personnel Division, who is the pilot?”
“Sir, that’s Jake Myers, young jock but not a bad one.” Replied a voice.
“Is he on today’s roster?” Peter snapped.
“Okay, Technical Branch, where is he in the envelope?”
“Well, sir, if you plot all of the vectors and throw in the reliability figures, it puts him in the grey area with nothing promised.”
Great, thought Peter. Another ambiguous answer from a statistician.
“Is that a hard yes or a hard no?” he inquired.
“That’s a hard maybe.” replied the tech rep. “I think that’s why Aviation referred it to you. sir”.
Peter paused to look at the image one more time. He made his decision. “Alright, let him go. And Technical Branch, let’s show a touch of class and make it a neat one. No side effects or complications, copy?”
Jake’s seat continued up the rails and cleared the aircraft. The chute began to unpack and Jake caught a glimpse of the ground. He was face-down and low. Very low! He felt a sharp tug on the harness and the saw the ejection seat pass his left foot.
Just as he straightened out, Jake hit feet, knees and oxygen mask in fifteen inches of freshly plowed soil. Four feet beyond him, his ejection seat made a foot-deep crater in the loose black dirt. Two hundred feet farther away, the former fighter impacted almost vertically and created a decent hole but amazingly little fireball.
Jake rolled over in the loose soil, released the fittings to his chute (that had never fully deployed) and wiped the dirt from his face as he took off his helmet. His Lead and the two “enemy” fighters circled the smoke column, hopefully awaiting the call that soon came from his survival radio.
Saint Peter called up the scene again as he briefed his replacement duty officer. “Pretty fair job by Technical Branch,” he mused. “But, I sure wish those aviators wouldn’t put me in the position of having to make that decision.”
Original publication 1983, TAC Attack Magazine
Illustrations by Stan Hardison