First Flight

In the interest of readability I am deleting the tips from the writing prompts going forward.

This one feels pretty good. I figured out the ending about 1/2 to 2/3 of the way through and on a quick scan I’m happy with how it turned out. If I knew more about short story publishing I would probably hold it back, do a good thorough edit, and then submit it various places. Since I don’t really know much about the industry I’m posting it here for all to enjoy. (And share. Please, feel free to share.) As always feedback is appreciated, whether public or private. In addition to getting ideas which support the novel I’m writing I am trying to become a better writer through this.

When Your Character Is Like You
Today I’m limiting your character choices.
The Prompt
Write a story featuring a character very like you

<— Write Below This Line —>

“34-Bravo are you declaring an emergency?”
Graham looked over at the instructor, limp in her seat. “Yes I am. I have a medical emergency on board. I am a student pilot and my instructor is incapacitated. Please advise. 34-Bravo.” This was supposed to be a good day, a fun day. It was supposed to be the start of something new. This, this was not supposed to happen.
“34-Bravo are you able to change radio frequencies?”
He took a deep breath and looked down. For years now he’s been watching this life from the sidelines. In theory this should all be easy. In the moment he struggled. He looked down at the console. There, that one’s got the NAV/COM interface. Yes. He can see it now.
“Tower, 34-Bravo. Yes I can change frequencies. Where would you like me to go?”
“Please report back to tower on frequency 121.5.”
“121.5, 34-Bravo.”
It seemed like an eternity passed as he dialed it in. By the time he looked up the plane had drifted from heading North to heading North-West, and dropped 5 degrees below the horizon.
Aviate, Navigate, Communicate.
Startled he looked over at his instructor. She was still limp, head rolling with the planes movements. He shook his head. Could’ve sworn that was her voice. He steered the plan back on course and glanced at the gages before contacting tower again. Plenty of gas anyhow. “Tower, Cessna 34-Bravo. Reporting on frequency 121.5.”
“This is Tower. We’re alone here now. No need to maintain standard coms during an emergency. Just talk to me like we’re on the phone. How are you doing?”
“Ummm. I’m fine I guess. She’s not moving though. I don’t know if she passed out or…” Graham glanced at her again. She was so young. Staci. She had told him of big dreams, dreams of being the pilot of the first crew to the asteroid belt. There was a girl he went to high school with that had a son about her age. Staci would still make that trip to the asteroids if he had any say.
“Calm down 34-Bravo. We’ll worry about her. She’ll have an ambulance waiting when you land in a few minutes OK? What’s your name?”
“Graham. My name is Graham. Her name is Staci.”
“Alright Graham. I need to know how well you can fly right now. I don’t care if this is the first time you’ve ever been in a plane or if you spent 20 years flying Fighters in the Air Force. I just need to know how well you can fly right now.”
“I can fly alright. Tell me a direction and I’ll go that way. I can probably land alright. My iPad’s got the speeds on it somewhere.” He looked down and started to fumble with the iPad.
“Don’t worry about the iPad Graham. I’ll tell you the speeds you need. For now why don’t you turn to a heading of 235. Push that throttle all the way in and try to stay at about 8000 feet. Use the trim to help if you need it. I’ve got you a nice path to the runway all set up and ready to go. I see you squawking 0742 so just let me know when you’re on heading.”
Graham looked up and saw himself turning to the West again. Man that happens quick. The voice again, calming him.
Navigate.
He brought the plane to the new heading and pushed the throttle in all the way. He was fighting pretty hard to maintain altitude at that power until he remembered to turn the trim wheel. Of course, looking down at the wheel had him drifting East of course again. “Ok Tower, I think I’m on track now. Is that the airport off to the South?”
“Yep. That’s the one. I need to line you up on the runway though, so we aren’t shooting straight for it yet. I’ll get you there but for now don’t worry about it. How’s your fuel situation Graham?”
“Um, it was at 3/4 when we started to talk. I’m kind of high to get to that airport right now aren’t I?”
“I’ve got you covered Graham. I need to keep you up this high for a couple of minutes while we clear the space you need lower down. How’s it looking up there? Any bumps coming off the mountains I front of you yet?”
It was a beautiful day for flying. That’s what he told his wife. She wasn’t happy with his new direction, but he convinced her it would be fine. Money wasn’t an issue for them anymore. They could pay all of their monthly expenses off about 3/4 of their interest income. It was time for them to move from careers that paid to careers that fulfilled. Not many people as young as they were had that chance.
“It’s smooth as glass up here tower. In different circumstances this would be one of the best days of my life.”
Life. He looked over at Staci again. Life was so precious. He hoped she was going to be OK. He felt helpless, but then he wasn’t. If whatever happened did so while she was alone in the plane she would definitely have died, now maybe she had a chance.
“That’s good to hear Graham. We’re going to start coming down now. The field elevation is 5324. Your job is to get down to 6000 and then turn to 174. That should just about get you to where we need to be. I want you to try not to slow down yet though. The only thing you need to be careful of is getting to fast, but that shouldn’t be an issue with a 2000 foot change.”
“You want me to go down before turning?”
“That’s right Graham. I need you a little further that direction, but I’ve got clear air for you now. You have miles before the elevation gets to 5500, so go ahead and get down.”
Graham pushed forward to send the plane down to 6000. He tried to be smooth, but of course the plane jerked forward on him.
“Don’t chase 6000 Graham, I want you to pull back when you get to 6400 and just kind of let the plane settle as you turn. Close enough works for us right now.”
The altitude started to spin back at a decent clip. Graham struggled to watch the altitude and speed at the same time. He didn’t dare look outside, just trying to keep the picture of a plane level in front of him as he watched the speed climb while the altitude dropped. At 6800 or so the speed approached the yellow arc. He couldn’t go past yellow.
Communicate.
“I’m starting to level out now, my speed is almost in the yellow. I just can’t go this fast.”
“Good thinking Graham. Fly the plane. Keep it safe, and then get it on course.”
As he slowly eased the stick back the speed stopped climbing. The plane settled around 6200 so he turned to the South. As he tried to lock in his new heading he saw flashing lights at the airport.
“You should see the ambulance now Graham. I told you we’d take care of Staci for you.”
“I see it Tower. I’m feeling better but I need to hurry up. What do I need to do with my speed?” Graham looked anxiously over at Staci, still limp, her head rolled to the other side after the last turn.
“Just follow my lead Graham. You’re going to come in fast and a little high. In about two minutes you’re going to cut the throttle down to about 1/4 and dive for the runway. At about 5400 feet you’re going to drop the flaps level off with a little up angle.”
“I’ll be going to fast for flaps though won’t I?”
“Technically, and it won’t feel good. You’re going to have to fight the plane some to make this work Graham.”
Fight the plane. This is so different from what he expected. Graham had wanted to become one with the plane, not fight it.
“Are you ready Graham? When I get to 3 pull the throttle and point at the flashing lights. Ok, it’s going to go fast from here. 1, 2, 3. Go Graham! You can do this.”
With the throttle back and the plane pointed down the sound changed. The noise of wind rushing past the plane became the loudest thing in the world. He started to get nervous as the runway came closer and closer.
“You’ll be fine Graham. I’ve got your altitude. Don’t worry about looking, I’ll tell you when to drop the flaps.”
Graham sent a prayer up. Maybe his wife was right. He took one last quick glance at Staci. Still nothing. Maybe two people were going to die in this plane today. He looked in front again. The ground seemed to be getting impossibly close. There were two fire trucks and an ambulance by the runway. One of the Fire trucks was starting to roll down the taxi-way next to the runway, ready to meet him where he stopped he imagined. The other two must be set to chase.
“Now Graham! Drop the flaps!”
Graham dropped the flaps. It was like hitting a wall. The front of the plane jumped up showing him nothing but sky.
“Push it down Graham! Point at the top of the tower and keep pointing at it!”
Graham pushed with every once of strength and willpower he had. The plane shuddered around him as time slowed to a crawl.
Aviate.
Slowly the ground started to come back into view. Glare from the sun filled the bottom of his view as he found the tower and wrestled back and forth with the controls to point at it.
“That’s it Graham, you’ll be on the ground in a flash. The ambulance is right behind you for Staci.”
Graham could barely speak through the effort of holding the plane’s angle steady while squinting through the glare. “Wait, Tower. What’s your name? I need to thank you properly.”
“It’s Timothy. Graham, tell Staci I’ll see her in the asteroid belt.”
Suddenly Graham was smacked down into his seat so hard he almost passed out as the plane hit the runway. An instinct he didn’t know he had flipped the master power off as he pushed on the brakes.
He was sitting in Staci’s room when his wife showed up at the hospital.
“I was so worried about you! I told you this was a bad idea. I’m putting my foot down, this is not your fulfillment career.”
“I’ll be fine dear. My back is gonna hurt for the next year, but I’ll be fine. I’ll figure something else out.”
A man in a suit came in. “It was pretty impressive how you got that plane down Graham. If you had been even a minute longer Staci probably wouldn’t have made it.”
“It wasn’t me sir. I was just following directions. You need to get your tower person here and thank him.”
The guy got a confused look on his face. “Sir? The tower operator couldn’t find you. You declared an emergency and then we didn’t hear from you until you were on the ground telling the paramedics you were fine and to check on Staci.”
“No. Tower had me go to a different channel and talked me all the way down. It was Tim, Timothy. I would never have made it without him.”
“Timothy?”
Graham started to get mad. “Yes, Timothy. Where is he? I need to thank him for saving my life!”
The man in the suit paused. “Sir. I’m not sure how to tell you this. There was a controller named Timothy at the tower. He was killed in an aircraft accident two years ago.” He then glanced at Staci. “He was Staci’s older brother.”

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