Postman Pat

October 15, 2013 § 2 Comments

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Captain Patrick Clifton had thirty thousand hours on the Pilatus Porter and his wife had just run off with the milkman. ‘Clear prop!’ yelled First Officer Jessica Coon to anyone listening. Captain Pat checked both magnetos and fired the Lycoming.

‘Morning Edinburgh Tower,’ chirruped Jess. ‘Golf Lima Oscar Oscar Papa requests taxi instructions for VFR flight to Lindisfarne.’

‘Morning Golf Oscar Papa, replied ATC. Clear taxi to holding point Alpha for Runway 27. QFE 996. You with the old man today?’

‘Affirm, sir. Not his usual cheery self, mind. Cleared Alpha for 27. QFE 996.’

Pat taxied to the hold as Jess did the pre-take offs. ‘Golf Oscar Papa ready for departure,’ she purred.

‘Golf Oscar Papa is clear take off. QNH 1003. Wind 280°, fifteen gusting thirty.’

‘Clear take off,’ confirmed Jess. QNH 1003. Wind copied.’

‘I’ll do the take off and landing,’ said Pat.’ Give you time to get the paperwork out the way.’

Lindisfarne’s airstrip was an asphalt causeway linking island to mainland. The Pilatus had a two-hour tidal window before the strip disappeared under the water for eight hours. ‘Should be an easy landing,’ drawled Pat as he climbed away. ‘Wind’s straight on the nose.’

Jess flicked the switch to retract the landing gear, ran through the after-take off routine, and settled down for the fifty minute flight. ‘She’s all yours,’ said Pat. ‘ I’ll go and check the mail sacks.’

‘But I’ve already done…’ said Jess. But Pat had already taken off his headphones and disappeared into the hold.

It was all a bit quiet in the back. None of the usual crashing about as Pat rearranged the mail sacks.

‘Everything ok?’ Jess asked as he scrambled back into the cockpit.

‘Have you forgotten how to fly this thing?’ he slurred. ‘She’s all over the place. Can’t you remember how to fly in a straight line?’

Jess fiddled with the auto pilot and bit her lip. She gave him her sweetest smile. ‘Everything properly stowed back there?’

Pat lurched into his seat and burped noisily. ‘Yep.’

‘Been speaking to Lindisfarne,’ Jess remarked mildly. ‘Wind’s backed to 180°. Twenty knots, gusting thirty-five. Quite a crosswind. Shall I look up an alternate?’

‘That’ll be Newcastle,’ he replied. ‘We’ll decide ten minutes out.’

‘Lindisfarne Radio. Hi Peter. Golf Oscar Papa inbound with your post and a few extra goodies. Request your current weather.’

‘Morning Greendale Rocket,’ he replied. ‘We’ve got the wind backing at 190°. Twenty knots, now gusting forty-five.’

‘Wind copied. Request landing instructions. Golf Oscar Papa.’

‘Straight-in approach for 26. Report final. Occasional waves lapping runway.’

‘Copied.’

‘We’ll go in,’ he smiled at Jess. ‘The Pilatus can handle this.’

‘But…’

‘But nothing,’ he boomed. ‘Just do your job. Remember who’s the captain round here.’

Jess carried out pre-landing checks and let down the undercarriage.

‘Lindisfarne Radio. Golf Oscar Papa on finals for 26. Request current wind.’

‘You’re clear to land,’ said Peter. Wind veering steady at 210°. Twenty knots occasionally gusting fifty. QFE 975.’

            ‘Clear land, Golf Oscar Papa,’ and under his breath, he said, ‘and this one’s for Brigid.’

            ‘Why Brigid?’ asked Jess.

            He grunted. ‘She’s gone and buggered off.’

Mrs. Coggins the postmistress idly watched from the shop doorway, her arms folded over her ample bosom, stray wisps of white hair escaping from her bun. She wasn’t concerned about the bad weather – Pat had been flying the Greendale Rocket longer than she could remember.

He lined up on the extended runway, crabbing the Pilatus at an angle – one wing down – to counteract the crosswind. Twenty feet above the ground he kicked her straight with the rudder, cut the power, and flared. As the front wheels touched, a violent gust caught the downwind wing and it’s tip slashed the water. She lurched, pitched forward, and flipped on her back.

Mrs. Coggins dialled quickly. ‘What service do you require, Mrs. Coggins?’ asked the operator.

‘All of them,’ she babbled. ‘The Rocket’s crashed.’

            Nothing moved in the Pilatus as it began to sink. As the cockpit disappeared beneath the waves, a bottle bobbed up and down, then sank. It said: Isle of Bura. Single Malt Whisky. And it was empty.

*

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