Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Dawn over North Sea

Tonight in realtime I flew two sorties from Peterhead over the North Sea. Again, I was in torpedo armed beaufighter. The day's first flight took place in the pre-dawn period, with reduced visibility but enough light to see by. I was not the only flier online, there being a Heinkel 111 bomber doing similar duty for the germans based in Norway. I think both Heinz and myself were half hoping we wouldn't bump into each other in the mist. As it turned out, he struck my shipping roughly midway between our bases in the middle of the ocean, while I struck a tanker only a few miles off his shore and to the South of his flight path from Herda.

I was flying at about 800 ft, alternating left and right bank with trim, studying the ocean to each side looking for shipping. Eventually, I see a ship at about 1 o'clock, check my position by clock, bearing and speed just to make sure it's not a friendly boat, drop to wave level and release the torpedo just in time to clear the rigging of the (luckily) unarmed ship. It sinks within a couple minutes. I fly back to Scotland, finding myself about 50 miles south of familiar territory at land fall, and make my way carefully back up the coast. Seeing the lights of my runway, I put my plane into a long descent, touching down nicely.

I while later I take off again in the dawn. There's a fog around, but I expect it to lift. Sadly, it doesn't. After about 20 min of flying fairly low on instruments (like, 100 - 500 feet) my nerves start to play tricks and the horizon shifts in the grey murk. Relying on my instruments almost totally, I decide to abort the mission after spotting only one (friendly) ship, jettison the torpedo and head for home.

This time I make landfall to the North of my base, and only realise I am over land after carefully examining the landscape through a thickening fog at about 200 feet. Eventually realising my position, I home in my base and, looping out after a recognition run to bleed off speed, I touch down about half way down the lit up runway. I have nearly come to a halt when my brakes freeze on me and I wreck the propellers as the plane tilts forward. I think Heinz had even worse luck in the murk.

My crash landing still counts as a landing. It's the fourth landing I've made in a row, including my successful sortie there and back again in the predawn light. My success rate and confidence begins to increase.

No comments: