Thursday, August 02, 2007

Night Flights

This morning (real time) I have opportunity to fly online at a time I usually don't. Taking the opportunity, I logged onto Norwegian Server's norwegian campaign. Again, flying beaufighter with torpedo over the North Sea. Flew two missions. In both, I was the only pilot in the skies.

Dusk: Took off from Peterhead airbase in North Scotland and headed East over North Sea towards hostile coast. The sun had just set behind me, but was still bright enough that I didn't need cockpit lights to see my instruments easily. Weather was fine. Keeping my height to beneath 2000 feet, I was able to comfortably scan ocean. Spotted hospital ship in it's usual location, with another one sighted a few miles to its North East (where the fishing boat was earlier in the day). I pulled my usual Northerly turn when I sighted the Norwegian coast, aiming to fly parallel to it and bag a ship closer in to shore.

I hadn't even completed my turn when I located a dark shape beneath, firing at me from about 10 o'clock. I was about 1500', so merely dropped my nose and tightened my turn to come immediatly into torpedo run. I released my load at about smoke stack height, from no more than several hundred yards. Lifting my nose, I banked up towards the slowly decreasing glow in the west. The ship was a destroyer, and its AA didn't harm me. It sank swiftly.

Return flight was uneventful, making a good landing and taxiing to my initial dispersal point.

Nightfall: Deciding I still had sufficient time to get one more sortie in before night proper arrived, I took off almost immediately in same direction as previously. The light had degraded to point that I used my cockpit lights now to see instruments clearly, and kept my height to under 1500 feet so that I could just make out ocean beneath. About 12 min into flight, I banked to the North, no more than 5 mile to the west of Norwegian coastal islands. Dropped to 1000 feet and started looking for a target.

A U-boat engaged me with AA fire at about the same time I spotted it from a couple miles off. The volume of its fire certainly exceeded that of the destroyer I'd sunk earlier in the day, though not that of the suspected battleship or cruiser which I'd sunk at dawn. I muffed my first pass, unintentionally gaining too much height as I circled in for attack run, then stalling as I tried to correct my mistake. Luckily I was able to recover from the resultant spin, albeit with only a couple hundred feet of air between me and the waves. Temporarily disoriented I, slowly regained a bit of altitude, confirmed my location from the visible coastal islands, and started to recommence my search for the elusive sub.

Almost immediately, however, another target presented itself closer inshore. It wasn't firing at me as I made my way towards it, although it looked pretty big. I dropped back down to mastheight, opened the throttle, and hurtled towards it - releasing torpedo bare seconds before I was climbing over the doomed ship and banking hard left to avoid overrunning the coastal AA batteries. I think it was a container ship.

Once I had confirmed the kill I headed home, using the rapidly shrinking glow on the western horizon to guide me. As it vanished, I crossed the coast several miles north of my runway. I looped down and came in on first approach, aborting it upon realising I was still travelling too fast with not enough runway left to safely land. Distances become uncertain in really poor light. Throwing on the power, I completed a circuit of the field and tried again.

When I'd committed myself to the landing (under 20 feet, engines off) I realised I was still travelling too fast to pull up by runway end. So I belly landed on the main runway (not wishing to make a third attempt in the dark), safely pulling up with only propellors and undercarriage damaged.

I think I'd call this my most successful session yet, two kills and two landings!

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