Wednesday, June 23, 2010

God's G

You meet at the field at six, near sundown as the Southern sun starts to cool, and gather round and plan the 30 minutes that will define your week. Maybe your month, or life. Maybe end it, too.

You pick a leader. No one wants it but somebody's got to do it, and so today we volunteer Squatch. He hates to lead but we make him lead because he's due. He sighs, his big shoulders slumping. He leans forward, “Okay. Gordy you're Two, Alan Three.”
 

Steve's pick-up swerves to a stop and he walks up. “You guys planning somethin'? Why didn't you call me? Don't want me flyin' with you, eh?”

“Sit down!” Squatch commands. “We've been trying to call you. You're Four.”

Squatch proposes a plan. We nod and break for the planes—Yak-52s, all of them. Military trainers all from Soviet Russia, planes that trained pilots that Gordy and I trained to fight against. Sweet revenge. We get the spoils of the Cold War, and splendid spoils they are.

Fifteen minutes later the Yaks go rolling out onto the grass from various hangars. The props turn, blue smoke belches and rolls in the prop wash across the green grass and Squatch checks us in on the radio: “Yak check.”
“Two.”
“Three.”
“Four.”
The check-in is crisp and timely. This could be a good one.

We line up on grass runway 9. Squatch drops his head and releases brakes. Gordy's student, in the front seat, Brandt, drops his heels to the floor and pushes the throttle up. The two Yaks roll like they're riveted together and get smaller as they head down field. Steve and I are making single ship takeoffs. I release brakes and whip all 360 horses into a frenzy. I'm pulling the gear up in seconds and rolling into the rejoin.

The two planes ahead grow bigger, fast, expanding in my canopy. In a minute it's time to rein in the horses and kill the overtake. I'm in, and Steve comes aboard. Four 3,000 pound hunks of steel and aluminum hang in mid-air mere feet from each other, softly bobbling up and down.

Most of the people on our field think we're crazy. Maybe we are.

Squatch takes us out over the Flint River Valley in “Fingertip” formation, turning, climbing. He breaks us up and brings us back together—“pitch-outs and rejoins” it's called. Brandt gets good practice. Steve, too. They're both fast learners. Steve is proficient enough to solo on the wing and not cause us worry. Brandt will be there soon.

Then comes the part we've been waiting for. Steve breaks out and holds high. He's not ready for this. Brandt turns his controls over to Gordy and hangs on. Squatch and I break away and separate from them. And then...

“FIGHT's ON! FIGHT's ON!”

I tell Squatch to go Fighting Wing and I roll in on Gordy. I gun him in a few seconds. He's playing it easy—for now. He's a Fighter Weapons School graduate, a “Top Gun.” Knows this stuff. I did it too, but I'm not his caliber. Squatch hasn't done this before at all.

We separate and do it again, Squatch leading the attack, me on his wing. He nails Gordy in short order. We repeat a number of times, Gordy getting more aggressive on defense as we go. In the last fight he's tough prey.

We're using the “egg,” or “God's G” to gain a turning advantage and get inside of Gordy's turn. “Working the vertical,” it's also called. Yo-yo maneuvers is another name for it. The earth twists and crawls around you, rolls overhead and slips back underneath you, then overhead again, like a big tapestry that is unimportant, not worthy of notice because you're after that target, that's also turning, twisting, trying to keep you away from his vulnerable “six o'clock” position where you will administer an unceremonious coups d'├ętat with your imaginary guns.

So, for a few minutes, the town of Gurley watches a Wednesday afternoon air battle overhead and aircraft working Unicom 122.7 for miles around hear a few curt calls like, “Fight's on!” and “Guns, Guns, Guns!” and “Knock it off,” and wonder what's going on, wondering if we we're insanely suicidal or supremely favored by the God of the Surly Bonds.

Gordy and Brandt call “Bingo fuel.” Squatch takes us down Initial for a pitch-out and we plop the four heavy birds onto the grass. We hangar the Yaks and wipe them down as the sun sinks. Sweaty, tired and grinning, we debrief, drink something cool and smooth, and and leave the grass field to go back to the world.

For me, it'll back to the proverbial “Line.” But I'm more at home here on the grass strip.

Sometimes I get cocky and think that our bunch knows how to pack more living into 30 minutes than most people do in a lifetime. God's G does that for you.





6 comments:

scott said...

Its been so long since my last yak ride.

Lynn said...

Mike would have loved this story!

Chris Davis said...

Where was my phone call?

Squatch said...

Tidy Boy, you really know how to capture the essence of an event and present it in text. I read your post five times, reliving every glorious moment of that hot afternoon. Nothing i've ever done in my life comes close to giving me the high that comes with flying with you and the Moontown Rats. Many an afternoon I've sat after our flights with the grin of a Cheshire cat permanently streched across my face, wondering how WE got to be the lucky ones.

Squatch Out!

Lakotahope said...

If I can't do everything in the universe I would want to, then reading someone else's aviation adventures sure can inspire some innovations.

Anonymous said...

You, Sir, are living the dream.