Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Predawn Duty

Flew two online sorties before dawn (server time) in beaufighter. No other pilots share the skies with me (the flightsim world generally appears a bit quiet tonight).Usual drill: try to find and torpedo enemy shipping close into the Norwegian Coast from my base in North Scotland, and return without being shot down by enemy AA fire. As usual, weather was fine and predawn light quite sufficient for flying 400 feet over the ocean at 280 mph by compass bearing.

Sortie 1: light is still relatively dim, although brightening as flight continues. I think I'll get one more flight in before the fog closes in around the airfields. Turning my mind to the task at hand, I locate the southern end of Norway's seaward island chain. About 10 miles to its west lies an enemy tanker. It appears to be on its own. I take advantage of the fact, sweeping around in a long descending circle, using this as a chance to recce the nearby southern entrance to the channel which forms Norway's inner sea. I see no other targets there, so return concentration to my target tanker as my turning flight brings it onto my forward horizon.

I am flying about 100 feet above ocean now and the plane feels as steady as a rock, both engines humming nicely. I throttle up to maximum as I release my torpedo from probably 3 or 4 miles' range. This is a long shot! I enter a slow spiralling climb, watching the wake of my torpedo over my right wing. Eventually I see it get close to the tanker. I am about 2000 feet above when I realise that it looks very much like missing the bow of the ship by bare yards. Gritting my teeth, I continue my circling, willing the torpedo to not miss. It doesn't. The tanker explodes with a satisfying bloom of flame. I turn for home. Less than half an hour after I departed I return, bringing my crate home in a safe but spectacular pancake landing.

Sortie 2: This time I fly due east towards Norway. The sun is getting close to rising in the middle of the bright horizon ahead. The clouds are taking on a slight pinkish tinge as I cross into enemy waters at about 500 feet altitude. I know from past experience I will need to be fairly quick or I will have to land in the fog which will soon be rising. Dropping closer to the ocean, I search for a target.

Out of the corner of my eye as I examine the seas over my right wing I spot an enemy boat. I can't identify its type, but can see the bright orange streams of its tracer bullets heading towards me. I am end-on to the ship. I throttle up, and begin slowly weaving up and down as I enter a circling path that should lead me onto the target for a torpedo run at a reasonable range, without giving him any clean shots.

Half way through the maneuver, however, I spot an easier target. Freighter, dead ahead! Range, under a mile! I drop the nose of my plane, level out at about 100 feet, dropping the torpedo from a couple hundred yards. Dead meat, the ship explodes seconds after I have passed over it. Staying low, I make a beeline for home trying to beat the fog.

I sweep in over the Scottish coast at about 600 feet, complete a half circuit of the airfield to calm my nerves, and make a regulation landing after dropping out of a gentle curve under full flaps onto the centre of the runway.

I call it night. Both because of the time in realworld (have to work tomorrow morn) and on the server (fog will be rising).

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