Sunday, August 05, 2007

Dawn scurry

Flew two beafighter missions in the immediate pre-dawn air over North Sea. Took off on similar bearing to previous flight, aiming to sweep across one of the main approach routes up the Fjord system to Herdla and try and clear any picket subs or patrol boats from the area.

Sortie 1: Air clear and crisp, visibility good. Fog not yet risen. Navigate off compass and map for 20 min, including dogleg section and descent to 1000 feet as I enter target area from the North. Targets should be well lit and the sun not directly in my eyes. Soon, I am engaged with what appears to be a sub beneath me, its AA clustering around me but failing to hit. I am a bit rattled, never the less, and muff the approach run. I can't even remember the release of the torpedo, but know it missed.

As I swept up and away out of the danger zone I am braced by AA hits, losing my right engine and feeling as though there's been some damage to the tail. I limp back towards base, relying on my one engine and the heavy use of all control surfaces to make up for my damage. My speed and altitude both slowly decline, and the challenge is on. My plane keeps wanting to veer off to the right, which makes it a constant struggle to keep any kind of bearing. Eventually, at half the speed and altitude I had had upon departure, I limp back to my base. At low altitude and with flaps the irregularities in the planes control surfaces magnifies itself. Sadly, I only work this out virtually as my wheels touch the ground. Struggle as I might to hold down the front down I can't and I am bouncing out of control down the runway. I dimly realise that this isn't my home field, a neighboring one, as my plane spins out of control across the ground, eventually coming to rest upright in the centre of the field.

Sortie 2: There is just the faintest trace of whisps of low level cloud beginning to form as I repeat my course for a final attempt to clear the seaward approach to Herdla before the fog comes in and makes low altitude flying too dangerous. Without incident I locate my previous antagonist, which I this time positively identify as another U-Boat. Failing to line it up properly the first time I see it, I fly a circuit, dropping in height at the same time as his gunners close in on me. Panicking at the last moments of my perilous corkscrew descent to attack run, I drop the torpedo too soon.

Pissed off, I see it flash harmlessly past the submarine's bow as I dive in on the boat with my cannons. I make a total of three cannon runs, and see lots of strikes. At the same time, I am aware that I am losing fuel out of my right wing, and that the fog is noticeably thickening around me. It will be worse by the time I get home. So, reluctuantly, I leave the sub behind and return to base, leaving a trail of smoke behind.

The fog thickens as I approach home, crossing the coast about 5 miles north and at 700 feet (necessary, because of the fog's increasing affect upon visibility). I circle into an immediate approach run. Perhaps a trifle steep, I manage to land safely on runway 1. My engine is smoking heavily as I taxi to a halt, waving my fist and cursing the wily sub commander who now has his chance to vanish in the morning mist.

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