T-6 Harvard fiction Beta Read request, Pt. 1

Discussion in 'Aircraft Requests' started by Sir-Talen, Aug 20, 2008.

  1. Sir-Talen

    Sir-Talen New Member

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    Okay, first time poster request, please be forgiving... :)

    The short version: A few months back I completed a sci-fi short story about a pair of alien pilots. One of the major set pieces in it was when they go up in a Harvard that had been bought and transported to their home world, which they take up flying. I dig some digging and found a nice first person description of flying a T-6 to use as a basis for the piece, but I'm Am Not a Pilot, so I was hoping if there any pilots with actual warbird flying experience (especially T-6's) would be willing to take a look at it.

    The Characters: Ru-Ofanius "Rufus" Brushtail, a somewhat disreputable nobleman of his race, who had spent some years bumming around as a mercenary pilot, generally making a wreck of his life, before losing his arm in an enemy action and coming home.

    Haz Elin "Hazel" Swiftfoot: A commoner and former naval pilot of the same race as Rufus, whom he's been romancing as she recovers from her own injury, having had her leg amputated after her starfighter cracked up due to an equipment malfunction. Subsequently she was cashiered after becoming addicted to painkillers.

    * * *

    “You’re having too much fun being mysterious,” Hazel said, a week later. She was sitting in the passenger seat of Rufus’ ground car, dressed in a grey split skirt and a black tank top, eyes closed as they zoomed along the highway. She had been released from hospital three days ago, once the doctors had reassured themselves that the gangrene had been prevented from invading her body. Resting at home seemed to have done her good, for she looked relaxed even as they rocketed down the highway.

    “It’s not going to be much of a surprise if you can see where we’re going,” Rufus replied. He braked and turned down a service road, stopping in front of a fence to wave his passcard at an automated reader, which blipped and obediently rolled back the gate for him. He parked his card at the side of a large, whitewashed building and said, “All right, you can open your eyes now.”

    Hazel looked up at the blank steel wall in front of her. “Oh, a warehouse. You certainly know how to show a vixen a good time.”

    “Not a warehouse, a hanger,” he said. He popped open the boot and pulled out her crutches, then helped her out of the car. She looked around, spotting the red and white towers of the visual guidance lights leading to the kilometer long, concrete runway.

    “What is this? We’re nowhere near the spaceport. Why’s there a highway out there?”

    “Runway,” he corrected. “We’re at the storage facility for the Vulpine Historical Aeronautics and Demonstration Society.” She began to follow him as he walked around the side to the bay doors, her expression brightening.

    “Oh, I saw them a couple of times when I was a little girl, flying recreations of the Greycoat flyers and such. You mean you’re a member?”

    “My family is a patron. It was my mother’s idea, to indulge my fetish for flight while at least keeping me inside Vulpine Prime’s atmosphere. I fear she only added fuel to the fire though.” He scanned his keycard again and the doors began to trundle back.

    “Look, Rufus, I appreciate the effort, but there’s no real point,” she began to say. “This like waving a four course meal in front of a starving… what is that?”

    She was staring at what was, to a trained star pilot, surely a bizarre looking craft. Less than nine meters long, with a low wing, a radial piston engine with a propeller mounted on the front and tail-dragger landing gear, it was obviously more advanced than the simple, wood and fabric flyers of pre-Subjugation yore, but more primitive than the star fighters that Vulpine flyers had suddenly been placed in when their world had been conquered. The body was painted grey with the red silhouette of some kind of long eared, long tailed, hopping creature, encircled by a white and blue roundel on the sides and wings, while the tail displayed numbers and letters in a human alphabet.

    “That’s a Harvard, a variant of the T-6 Texan,” Rufus said proudly. “They were used to train pilots almost seven centuries ago back on Earth, prior to the Varn Dominion’s arrival there. The Society purchased her from a museum, shipped her to Vulpine Prime and restored her to flying condition.”

    She whistled in appreciation. “She’s beautiful, it’s a marvelous reproduction.”

    “Oh, no, she isn’t a reproduction, that’s an original airframe. We’ll be taking her up today,” he said told her.

    “We’re going to what?” she exclaimed. “But we can’t!”

    “Why not?”

    “Pardon me, but I’ve got one leg and you’ve got one arm. What are we supposed to do, share the pilot’s seat?”

    “It’s a trainer, dear. Dual controls, front and back. You can handle the stick and I’ll mind the pedals and throttle.”

    “You’re mad. If that thing is as old as you say, it’s a historical artifact! It should be in a museum. What if we crashed it?”

    “It’s been flying for nearly seven hundred years, and has belly landed at least three times that we can find in her records,” Rufus said patiently, “I don’t think we’ll crack her up today.”

    “But, Rufus,” she rubbed her muzzle in frustration. “I had my license revoked. I can’t fly anything.”

    “Forgive me for prying but I checked into that. Your suspension was in relation to conventional aerospace craft. This Harvard is categorized as an experimental aircraft, given it doesn’t fit with anything else these days. It’s perfectly all right for you to fly it, so long as you’re accompanied by a rated Instructor Pilot.” He smiled. “Which I just happen to be.”

    “We can fly it, really fly it?” She had a look on her face that any junkie could recognize and a Need that had nothing to do with drugs.

    “Yes, we can. Let me get you a set of flight coveralls and a helmet.”

    Ten minutes later he had helped her climb up onto the wing and seated her in the front of the cockpit. Rufus climbed back down and opened a pair of panels with a Dzus tool and started the pre-flight check. Everything looked in order, so he closed them up again, double-checked for cracks on the metal ‘angles’ that held the cowling to the engine, then climbed into the back seat and pulled on the straps of his parachute. “Testing, testing,” he said over the helmet’s microphone, “can you hear me all right?”

    “Just fine,” she called back. She was staring down at the bottom of the cockpit. “I couldn’t help noticing that there isn’t a floor here. I can see the cables for the controls right underneath my foot.”

    “Right. That’s why we have to wear these coveralls. It would be quite bad if something dropped from your pockets and got jammed in there while we were in flight. Also, make sure you keep your toes clear of the cables as well. When it was built the assumption was that the person flying it would be wearing boots.”

    “I’ve lost quite enough body parts, thank you very much. Oh, before we go up, I just needed to know where the handles for the ejection seat are.”

    “It doesn’t have one,” he told her.

    After a long pause she asked, “So what happens in case of an in flight emergency?”

    “We pop open the cockpit and jump out. That’s how they did it in the old days. Assuming, of course, that we’ve got enough altitude to have time to try that.”

    Another pause. “Humans flew this thing deliberately?”

    He grinned. “I think the assumption was that if it didn’t kill you during training, you were more than ready to fly an armed craft into combat.”

    “Oh. Wonderful.”

    “We could do something else, if you wish. I know a couple of nice restaurants…”

    “Frell no. Activate the engine, I want to fly!”

    “All right then. Take hold of the wobble pump, the handle on the left side, and start stroking it then. This is a two handed job.”

    She leaned over and grabbed the pump and started running the handle forward and back. After a six count Rufus unlatched the primer and pressed it down, then flipped on the batteries and pressed the starter. The big radial engine groaned and the prop began to turn. After the fourth blade passed he flipped the magnetos and the engine roared and began running on its own.

    “Fire! We’ve got an engine fire!” Hazel called out as white smoke blew past the cockpit.

    “Don’t worry! That’s normal!” Rufus called back. “See, it’s already dissipated.”

    “Holy Den Mother, watch over we two fools,” she prayed.

    Rufus released the hand brake, then using the rudder pedals and individual wheel brakes, made a series of S turns down the taxiway to the end of the runway. “BTD Air Traffic Control, this is VH129 Experimental, requesting takeoff from VHS runway two-five straight out and clearance for training flight inside coordinates 111 by 324, range 10 klicks, max altitude 2,500 meters.”

    VH129 X, you are cleared for take off, VHS two-five, straight out. Takeoff permission is good for thirty minutes.

    “Thank you, BTD ATC.” He flipped back to the internal com channel. “All right, Hazel. I’ll take us up. On my word, slowly bring the throttle up to 100% power.” He brought the flaps down to takeoff position and released the brakes. “Throttle up!”

    “Throttling up!”

    The intense roar of the radial pistons increased and the Harvard began to roll forward. A few seconds later the tail lifted off the ground, then they were at takeoff speed. Rufus pulled back on the stick gently and the rumble of tires on tarmac disappeared, leaving only the wind underneath them to hold them in the air. He held the plane at a ten degree up angle until they had reached a comfortable five hundred meters, then leveled off.

    “BTD ATC, this is VH129 X, we are airborne.”

    Confirm, VH 129. Good flying. BTD ATC out.
     
  2. Sir-Talen

    Sir-Talen New Member

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    “Bring us back to about 70 percent power, Hazel. Manifold pressure should be at the top end of the green zone.”

    “Which dial?” she asked, scanning the unfamiliar control layout.

    “Upper right, center of the control panel.”

    “All right, throttling back.” The engine’s roar diminished slightly as she gradually brought the power back.

    “Very well. Now, I want you to take the control stick. I’ve got to raise the flaps and the landing gear.”

    “You’re sure?” Hazel asked, her voice uncertain.

    “I trust you. Keep in mind she’s going to want to roll to the right, because of the torque of the propeller.”

    Still not sounding like she thought this was a good idea, she answered, “All right.”

    “You have the aircraft.”

    “I have the aircraft,” she confirmed. He let go of the control stick, his hand hovering over it a moment as the Harvard wobbled. Then their flight path straightened out again, steady and true.

    “Oh, blessed Holy Den Mother, thank you.”

    Rufus brought up the flaps and landing gear. “Care to try a few maneuvers?” he asked.

    “Let me get some more altitude underneath us first, please.”

    They rose lazily up to 2,000 meters, pulling on oxygen masks while Rufus ran her through the meanings of the various indicator dials on Hazel’s control panel and the aircraft’s tolerances. Fortunately they had been relabeled into Vulpine from the archaic human tongue, so she easily caught on. “It’s hard to believe that this thing is being controlled by my muscles alone, without actuators or hydraulics,” she said.

    “Yes,, I think we missed something, going straight from wood wings to fly-by-light controls. Ready to do some maneuvering?”

    “Yes.” Without waiting for a go ahead, she pulled the control stick to the left, bringing the Harvard into an easy, two-minute turn. “Woo! She really wants to turn, doesn’t she?”

    Rufus could hear the grin in her voice and it lightened his heart. “She needs a gentle touch, otherwise she’ll bite you on the tail. Now let’s try a coordinated turn, with you on the stick and me on the pedals.”

    “F.A.B. Turning right.” They banked right, Rufus pressing down on the rudder pedals while she minded the ailerons, the effort smoother than the first turn she had made on her own. Then she straightened their flight path out.

    “What are you doing?”

    “This!” Rufus grabbed for the padded edge of the control panel as she snap rolled the Harvard onto its right wing, then upside down, then its left wing, and finally upright again. “Oh, I love this dear bird!”

    “She is beautiful, isn’t she?”

    “Oh, we’re coming near home.” Hazel dipped the wing down and Rufus could see the rocky hills of the Northeast Sector below them, little turret homes rising up from underneath the green canopy of spade trees. A maintenance stood on a platform at the top of one of the windmill generators and gave them a cheery wave.

    “It’s lovely down there,” Rufus said.

    “Yes, I’d forgotten just how lovely,” she replied. “When I grew up there all I could think about was getting away. It was too poor, too provincial. I wanted to see the stars. I had to lose my leg to realize how dear it was to me.”

    “Yes. That’s something I’d forgotten as well.” As frustrating as his mother could be, as the web of duties around him were, it had taken Hazel’s cry for help in the hospital to realized what those duties meant. They looked up to him, the commoners to the Farmer Noble, to set things right when events looked determined to go wrong. “Duty” was only burden because it was the weight on their hopes that he carried on his shoulders. Holy Den Mother, please forgive me for taking so long to figure that out.

    A voice over the com snapped him out of his reverie. BTD ATC to VH129 X, please maintain your present heading and altitude.

    “VH129 X to ATC, message received. What’s the problem?”

    He could have sworn he heard a smile in the air traffic controller’s voice as she replied, Prepare for military inspection. Two fast movers approaching your six o’ clock. BTD ATC out.

    “Military inspection? What are they talking about?” Hazel asked

    “I don’t know,” Rufus said, a bit confused himself. The question was answered though, when he caught sight of two thin, silvery needle shapes in the rear facing mirrors mounted around the cockpit, rapidly approaching their aft quarter. In short order the little Harvard was flying in formation with two Bright Claws, two-seat, top of the line star fighters each easily twice the ancient trainer’s length and capable of traveling at least thirty times its top speed in an atmosphere.

    The pilots waved while their WSO’s raised personal cameras and snapped a few shots. Rufus waved back, while Hazel kept her hands steady on the control stick and eyes on the instruments. He felt briefly sorry for the pilots of those fighters. They were having a devilishly hard time trying to keep steady with the ancient trainer at this speed, their flaps at full extension and engines nearly at idle as they fought to prevent a stall.

    “Are you all right, Hazel?” he asked.

    “She’s flying smooth,” she answered. “I’m doing better than they are at maintaining this speed.”

    “That’s not what I meant.”

    She spared a glance towards the modern fighters, whose engines could carry them out into space and the stars beyond. “I’m all right, Rufus, really. It hurts, but not as bad as I thought it would. Does that make sense?”

    “I fell much the same.”

    Her voice brightened. “Why don’t we show those flyboys what this thing can do?” She brought the Harvard’s nose up, pulling up above the surprised fighters and then banking into a hard turn. The Bright Claws turned to match her, as she did a four point snap roll, showing off the trainer’s wings and belly to the delighted fighters.

    “I’m going to open up the throttle again. I want to try an Immelman.”

    “Go for it. Let’s show them what this bird can do!”

    The radial engine roared as she opened the throttle wide and put them thirty degrees nose down, building up momentum energy before she pulled the stick back to her belly, bring their aircraft into a steep climb that shoved Rufus back against his seat. The Immelman was one of the most ancient of maneuvers, designed to revese a fighter’s course quickly by doing a half-loop before rolling the aircraft right side up again. He raised his eyes up to the canopy, watching at the sky traded places with green earth over his head.

    They were almost at the top of the loop when all at once there was a loud bang in the direction of the Havard’s nose, then suddenly dark lubricant coated the cockpit windows while the engine began roaring and banging. Hazel let out a shriek as a piece of the cowling tore loose and shattered the front windscreen. Then suddenly the wind was roaring in the cockpit as flames poured from the engine and the little fighter began tumbling out of the sky.

    Rufus flipped down the magnetos, killing the engine, then punched the actuator for the halon fire extinguishers mounted in the engine. They hissed and doused the flames as he pushed another control and feathered the blades of the propeller. All the while he was shouting into his microphone, “Emergency, emergency, emergency! BTD ATC, this is VH129 X, we are declaring an emergency! We have had total engine failure and are in an uncontrolled spin!”

    “Shit! I can’t see!” Hazel yanked up the visor of her helmet, covered with lubricant from the engine, and raised her free hand to shield her eyes from the wind blasting the cockpit. The Harvard rolled back over onto its belly as it tumbled out of the sky, nose down and tail high as it spun counter-clockwise around its z-axis, out of control.

    Rufus shoved his foot down hard on the left pedal, trying to slow their rate of spin. It was no good, they had lost too much of their energy in the climb and now their horizontal speed was too slow to get enough air over the rudder. “Hazel, put the nose down! We’re stalled out!”

    VH129 X, rescue vehicles are enroute to your position. Can you restart your engine? the air traffic controlled called out.

    “Negative, ATC! Total engine failure, we cannot restart! We are attempting to regain flight control.”

    Hazel growled and push the control stick down and to the right, trying to judge the correct angle that would bring the nose down so they could translate their rapidly declining altitude into forward momentum that would bring them up past stall speed again. Outside the windows the earth and sky spun around sickeningly, forcing Rufus to turn his eyes away from the spectacle and keep them focused on the flatlining needles that told the tale of their dying ship.

    “Come on you lousy worthless…” she growled. Then suddenly the Harvard’s nose was pointing down as their airspeed crossed the stall threshold and their rate of spin slowed. She brought the nose up gradually, keeping it at a ten degree down angle to maintain forward velocity. “What happened!” she shouted back to him.

    “We must have thrown a cylinder,” Rufus said. He turned his attention back to the com. “ATC, we regained flight control but we still do not have engine power and are descending.” He glanced at his instruments. The altimeter showed them to have about 600 meters, but at their present rate of descent they’d run out of air underneath their wings in less than three minutes.

    “Rufus, we are not going to make it back to the airport,” Hazel said, her voice tight with tension. There was a roaring crack in the sky, as the Bright Claws circled around them like worried geese, helpless to intervene, only able to serve witness to either their survival or destruction. “Should we bail out?”
     
  3. Sir-Talen

    Sir-Talen New Member

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    “Not enough altitude now,” he said. “We’re going to have to belly land in a field.” They had passed over the rough hills of Hazel’s home district and now were cross neat triangular fields of cob stalks.

    “Do you want the controls?”

    “No, this will take both hands on the stick and you’ve got the better view up front.”

    “Okay.” She squinted her eyes into the wind and put gripped the control stick.

    “ATC this is VH129 X. We are going to attempt a belly landing. Are you tracking us?”

    We’re locked on to your position and are receiving updates from those two Bright Claws. The Den Mother’s blessings on you, VH129 and good luck.

    “Thank you, ATC.”

    “Call out the altitude for me, Rufus,” Hazel ordered.

    “Three hundred-fifty.” He felt the left wing dip slightly as she lined up with the approached cob field. “Three hundred. Keep the nose up about five degrees on final, we don’t want to dig in and flip.”

    “Right. Don’t back seat drive.”

    “Two-fifty. Two hundred. One-fifty…” At fifty meters he dropped the flaps. The Harvard popped upward for a moment with the increased lift, but then slowed and fell again. “Forty. Thirty. Twenty. Ten…” Then suddenly there were yellow cob stalks snatching at the wings and nose, then a giant suddenly kicked Rufus hard in the seat of his pants and they plowing through the stalks like an enraged grass chaser. The aircraft turned a bit as one the wings dipped into the dirt, but by that point they had slowed enough that it didn’t matter. Then they were at rest, Rufus’ ears ringing from the sudden silence.

    “Let’s get out here!” Hazel declared, shoving the canopy open and pulling her safety harness off.

    “Agreed.” Rufus clambered out onto the wing and helped her out. Hazel wrapped her arms around his neck as he pulled her out with his good arm and carried her through the cob stalks, trying to get as much distance between them and the potentially explosive fuel still remaining in the Harvard. A hundred meters away he stopped and set her down carefully on the dirt service road that edged the field. “Are you all right?”

    Hazel huffed out a breath. “I’m going to be horribly sore this evening, but I’m all right.” She slammed her fist into the dirt. “Bloody hell!”

    “What’s the matter?” Rufus covered his ears a moment as one of the Bright Claws dropped out of the sky with a roar of its ventral thrusters, setting down at an intersection of roads a few hundred meters ahead of them.

    “That’s the second time I’ve crashed what I was piloting!”

    “Not your fault in either case, I should point out. The cylinder head must have had a weak point.”

    “Oh, quit being a suck up.”

    The two crewfolk from the Bright Claw came running up, young males, both in their twenties, the pilot carrying their fighter’s emergency kit under his arm. “Holy Den Mother bless!” he exclaimed upon seeing them.

    “Well, any landing you can walk…” Rufus began to say.

    “ATC! ATC! Get those damned rescue vehicles down here now!” the pilot cried out into his com mike in panic. “They’ve had their legs and arms cut off!”

    Rufus looked at Hazel. Meeting his gaze, she began snickering. He choked back a laugh. Then they were both rolling on the ground, laughing their heads off while the Bright Claw crew looked down at them like they were lunatics.

    “Heh! My da is going to kill me for this!” Hazel gasped, trying to stifle further giggles.

    “So will my mum, but she’s lost her veto on keeping me from flying,” Rufus said, catching his breath, the poor crewfolk still goggling.

    “Sir, what’s going on?” the pilot asked, dumbfounded.

    “Just showing a vixen a good time,” Rufus told him.

    “Oh, did you ever,” Hazel replied. Then she rolled on top of him, pinning his arm over his head and gave him a deep kiss.
     
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