Flying by the Seat of Your Pants: Flash Fiction for Aspiring Writers

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The night before the mission Squadron 74 threw back their beers and cuddled their girls They knew there would be empty seats and some broken-hearts the following night. 

1100 hours the bugle sounded.  A quick briefing. No longer carefree, they ran to their planes. Commander Keith ‘Grid’ Caldwell headed out with his men. “On your bikes, chaps” he ordered. 

The formation crossed the line at 1330 hrs. Soon they ferreted out some enemy planes. Bratatattat. Bratatattat. Sparks flew from the machine guns. Grid, in his element, attacked, then spiralled, righting his plane to appear from nowhere shooting the German out of the sky. He dipped away. His plane shuddered. He had collided with one of his own at 7000 feet. The plane with it damaged wing spun downward another 2000 feet. Without a parachute Grid had a choice of death. He decided to jump. He leant out over the wing and the plane steadied, flattening out. Holding the right rudder with his left foot he kept his weight on the wing and managed to fly his crippled aircraft to safety.

Thank you to Priceless Joy for hosting flash fiction for aspiring writers and thank you also to Yinglan who provided this weeks photo prompt.

This photo immediately  reminded me of an war aircraft museum I have visited in New Zealand. In the WWI exhibit I learnt about this NZ pilot who had a narrow escape and was one of the few pilots to survive WWI where the average lifespan of these young men was two weeks from commencing flying missions. Grid went on to become a Air Commodore in WWII. He gained the nickname Grid as it is NZ for bicycle and this is what he called the planes.

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© irene waters 2018

The other interesting fact that I didn’t know was that in WWI, unlike the German pilots, British pilots weren’t issued with parachutes. The rationale of the British Government was that the pilots may not be quite as focused on carrying out the task at hand and might bale earlier, ditching expensive aircraft that potentially could limp home. It took them some time to realise that trained fighter pilots were a more valuable commodity than the plane. Once they realised this parachutes became standard issue.

About Irene Waters 19 Writer Memoirist

I began my working career as a reluctant potato peeler whilst waiting to commence my training as a student nurse. On completion I worked mainly in intensive care/coronary care; finishing my hospital career as clinical nurse educator in intensive care. A life changing period as a resort owner/manager on the island of Tanna in Vanuatu was followed by recovery time as a farmer at Bucca Wauka. Having discovered I was no farmer and vowing never again to own an animal bigger than myself I took on the Barrington General Store. Here we also ran a five star restaurant. Working the shop of a day 7am - 6pm followed by the restaurant until late was surprisingly more stressful than Tanna. On the sale we decided to retire and renovate our house with the help of a builder friend. Now believing we knew everything about building we set to constructing our own house. Just finished a coal mine decided to set up in our backyard. Definitely time to retire we moved to Queensland. I had been writing a manuscript for some time. In the desire to complete this I enrolled in a post grad certificate in creative Industries which I completed 2013. I followed this by doing a Master of Arts by research graduating in 2017. Now I live to write and write to live.
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30 Responses to Flying by the Seat of Your Pants: Flash Fiction for Aspiring Writers

  1. Wow, great story! Very harrowing. So glad he was able to land safely.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Well I did not know that about the parachutes. Quite shocking really that they valued lives so little.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. James Pyles says:

    When you mentioned those old biplanes flying at 7,000 feet, I had to look it up because I didn’t know they could fly so high. I was shocked when I discovered the service ceiling for a Sopwith Camel was nearly 21,000 feet.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It must have been jolly freezing up there at that height. I read two different articles on Grid’s story – he was flying a S.E.5a (I don’t know the plane) one article said he was at 16000 feet and the museum info said 7000 feet. I too thought 7000 feet more likely but perhaps it was 16000.

      Liked by 1 person

      • James Pyles says:

        It’s not just the temperature, it’s the air pressure. These guys were in open cockpits, and if they went too high, breathing was going to be a problem. But then again, their engines ran on air, too.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. I am really glad the pilot survived, Irene. Great fiction.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Varad says:

    Great story and great backstory as well. Nice read, Irene.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Iain Kelly says:

    Dramatic story Irene. How these men kept going up for flight after flight knowing the chances were they wouldn’t return this time fills me with admiration. Well written.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Michael says:

    I enjoyed the detail in this story and the links.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Charli Mills says:

    Interesting history, though the rationale for not issuing parachutes is startling!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. What an incredible story!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Ellespeth says:

    Good Lord! Wasn’t his time to go!
    ~~~~
    No parachutes???!!! 😦

    Ellespeth

    Liked by 1 person

  11. shivamt25 says:

    Great story! You maintained the thrill throughout.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. yarnspinnerr says:

    A thrilling snapshot.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. athling2001 says:

    How horrible. No parachutes! I’m glad that changed. Great take on the prompt.

    Liked by 1 person

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