Page 20 of Runway Zero-Eight

“I understand, Captain. Over.”

“One more thing, Janet. Just before the landing we will ask the pilot to sound the emergency bell. And, George — the switch for that bell is right over the copilot’s seat and it’s painted red.”

“Can you see it?” asked Spencer without looking up.

“Yes,” said Janet, “it’s here.”

“All right. Remember it.”

“Janet,” continued Treleaven, “that will be your warning for final precautions, because I want you to be back then with the passengers.”

“Tell him no,” Spencer cut in. “I must have you up front.”

“Hullo, Vancouver,” said Janet. “I understand your instructions, but the pilot needs me to help him. Over.”

There was a long pause. Then, “All right, 714,” Treleaven answered. “I appreciate the position. But it is your duty, Janet, to see that all emergency crash precautions are taken before we can think about landing. Is there anyone you can explain and delegate this to?”

“What about the doctor?” suggested Spencer.

Janet shook her head. “He’s got enough on his plate,” she said.

“Well, he’ll have a bit more,” he snapped. “I’ve got to have you here if we’re to stand any chance of getting down.”

She hesitated, then pressed the stud to transmit. “Hullo, Vancouver. Dr. Baird will in any case have to keep a watch on the sick passengers as we land. I think he’s the best person to carry out the emergency drill. There’s another man who can help him. Over.”

“Hullo, Janet. Very well. Detach yourself now and explain the procedure very carefully to the doctor. There must be no possibility of error. Let me know when you’re through.” Janet laid aside her headset and climbed out of her seat. “Now George,” Treleaven went on, “watch that you keep to your present course: I’ll give you any corrections as necessary. Right now, as you approach the airport, I’ll give you a cockpit check of the really essential things. I want you to familiarize yourself with them as we go along. Some of them you’ll remember from your old flying days. Be certain you know where they are. If you’re in any doubt this is the time to say so. We’ll have as many dummy runs as you like but when you do finally come in the procedure must be carried out properly and completely. We’ll start on the first check directly Janet gets back on the air.”

In the control room at Vancouver, Treleaven took a dead cigarette from his mouth and tossed it away. He looked up at the electric wall clock and back at the controller. “How much gas have they got?” he demanded.

Grimsell picked up the clipboard from the table. “In flying time, enough for about ninety minutes,” he said.

“What’s the angle, Captain?” asked Burdick. “You figure there’s plenty of time for circuits and approaches, don’t you?”

“There’s got to be,” said Treleaven. “This is a first-flight solo. But keep a strict check on it, will you, Mr. Grimsell? We must have plenty in hand for a long run-in over the ocean, if I decide as a last measure to ditch.”

“Mr. Burdick,” hailed the switchboard operator, “your president is on the line.”

Burdick swore. “At this time, he has to get back! Tell him I can’t speak to him now. Put him through to the Maple Leaf office. Wait a minute. Put me on to the office first.” He picked up a telephone and waited impatiently. “Is that you, Dave? Harry. Surprise for you — the Old Man is on the line. Hold him off as best you can. Tell him 714 is in holding position and his prayers are as good as ours. I’ll ring him directly the — directly I have something to tell him. Then I suppose he’ll jump a plane here. Right, boy.”

The assistant to the controller, his hand cupped over a telephone, was saying to his chief, “It’s Howard. He says the press are—”

“I’ll take it.” The controller seized the telephone. “Listen, Cliff. We’re accepting no more non-operational calls. Things are far too critical now…. Yes, I know. If they’ve got eyes, they’ll see for themselves.” He replaced the receiver with a bang.

“I’d say that boy was doing a pretty good job,” grunted Burdick.

“He is, too,” agreed the controller. “And those newspapermen wouldn’t be doing their job by keeping quiet. But we can’t be distracted now.”

Treleaven stood by the radio panel, his fingers drumming absently, his eyes fixed on the clock. Outside the airport, in the first light of dawn, the emergency measures were in full swing. At a hospital a nurse hung up her telephone and spoke to a doctor working at an adjacent table. She handed him his coat, reaching also for her own. They hurried out and a few minutes later the overhead door to the vehicle bay of the hospital slid up, emitting first one ambulance and then another.

In a city fire hall one of the few crews to be held to the last minute on reserve slapped down their cards and raced for the door at the sound of the bell, snatching up their clothing equipment on the way. The last man out skidded back to the table and lifted up the cards of one of his opponents. He raised an eyebrow, then dived after his colleagues.

At the little group of houses near Sea Island Bridge, which lay in direct line with the airfield, police were shepherding families into two buses, most of the people with street clothes thrown hastily over their night attire. A small girl, staring intently at the sky, tripped over her pajamas. She was picked up instantly by a policeman and deposited in a bus. He waved to the driver to get started.

“Hullo, Vancouver,” called Janet, a little breathlessly. “I’ve given the necessary instructions. Over.”

“Good girl,” said Treleaven with relief. “Now, George,” he went on quickly, “the clock is running a little against us. First, reset your altimeter to 30.1. Then throttle back slightly, but hold your air speed steady until you’re losing height at 500 feet per minute. Watch your instruments closely. You’ll have a long descent through cloud.”

Spencer spread his fingers round the throttles and gently moved them back. The climb-and-descent indicator fell slowly and a little unevenly to 600, then rose again to remain fairly steady at 500.

“Here comes the cloud,” he said, as the gleams of daylight were abruptly blotted out. “Ask him how high the cloud base is below.”

Janet repeated the question.

“Ceiling is around 2,000 feet,” said Treleaven, “and you should break out of cloud about fifteen miles from the airport.”

“Tell him we’re holding steady at 500 feet a minute,” instructed Spencer.

Janet did so.

“Right, 714. Now, George, this is a little more tricky. Don’t break your concentration. Keep a constant check on that descent indicator. But at the same time, if you can, I want you to pinpoint the controls in a first run-through of landing procedure. Think you can manage that?”

Spencer did not trouble to answer. His eyes rooted on the instrument panel, he just set his lips and nodded expressively.

“Yes, Vancouver,” said Janet. “We’ll try.”

“Okay, then. If anything gets out of hand, tell me immediately.” Treleaven shook off a hand someone had laid on his arm to interrupt him. His eyes were screwed up tightly as he looked again at the blank spot on the wall, visualizing there the cockpit of the aircraft. “George, this is what you will do as you come in. First, switch the hydraulic booster pump on. Remember, just fix these things in your mind — don’t do anything now. The gauge is on the extreme left of the panel, under and to the left of the gyro control. Got it? Over.”

He heard Janet’s voice reply, “The pilot knows that one, Vancouver, and has located the switch,”

“Right, 714. Surprising how it comes back, isn’t it, George?” Treleaven pulled out a handkerchief and wiped the back of his neck. “Next you’ll have to turn off the de-icer control. That’s bound to be on and will show on the gauge on the right of the panel, just in front of Janet. The flow control is next to it. That one’s easy, but the control must be off before you land. Watching the descent indicator, George? Next item, brake pressure. There are two gauges, one for the inboard brake and one for the outboard. They’re immediately to the right of the hydraulic boost which you’ve just found. Over.”

After a pause, Janet confirmed, “Found them, Vancouver. They’re showing 950 and — er — 1,010 pounds — is it per square inch? — each.”

“Then they’re okay, but they must be checked again before landing. Now, the gills. They must be one-third closed. The switch is right by Janet’s left knee and you’ll see it’s marked in thirds. Are you with me? Over.”

“Yes, I see it, Vancouver. Over.”

“You can work that one, Janet. Next to it, on the same bank of switches, are the port and starboard intercooler switches. They’re clearly marked. They will have to be opened fully. Make sure of that, Janet, won’t you? Open fully. The next and most important thing is the landing gear. You’ve been through the drill, but go over it thoroughly in your mind first, starting with the flap movement and ending with the wheels fully down and locked. Full flap should be put on when the plane is very near touch-down and you’re sure you’re going to come in. I shall direct you on that. Is this understood by both of you? Over.”

“Tell him yes, thanks,” said Spencer, his eyes not leaving the panel. His shoulder had begun to itch abominably, but he blanked his mind to the irritation.

“Okay, 714. When you’re on the approach, and after the wheels are down, the fuel booster pumps must be turned on. Otherwise your supply of gas might be cut off at the worst moment. The switch for these is at five o’clock from the autopilot, just behind the mixture controls.”

Janet scanned the panel in a daze. “Where?” she almost whispered to Spencer. He peered at the board and located the switch. “There.” His finger stabbed at the little switch, above the grooved bank that held the throttle levers.

“All right, Vancouver,” she said weakly.

“Now the mixture is to be changed to auto rich. I know George has been itching for that, so I won’t say any more — he’ll handle that all right. Then you have to set the propellers until the green lights under the switches come on. They’re just about touching George’s right knee, I should think. Got them?”

“Pilot says yes, Vancouver.”

“Lastly, the superchargers. After the wheels are down, these must be set in the take-off position — that is, up, on your aircraft. They are, of course, the four levers to the left of the throttles. Well, now. Any questions about all that? Over.”

Spencer looked at Janet despairingly. “It’s all one big question,” he said. “We’ll never remember it all.”

“Hullo, Vancouver,” said Janet. “We don’t think we’ll be able to remember it.”

“You don’t have to, 714. I’ll remember it for you. There are some other points, too, which we’ll deal with when we come to them. I want to go over these operations with you thoroughly, George, so that when I give the word you’ll carry out the action without too much loss of concentration. Remember, this is just a drill in flipping over switches. You still have to fly the aircraft.”