Jay Lacklen

Flying the Line, An Air Force Pilot's Journey

Volume Two: Military Airlift Command

Excerpts: Book two

Suddenly we were not in control of the plane. I felt as if a giant invisible hand had scooped us up and begun to raise us into the sky, a sensation similar to a rapidly rotating Ferris wheel after you pass the bottom of the circular arc and begin to rise rapidly.

The retired colonel’s eyes narrowed and a sneer came across his face. “Are you a reservist, captain?” he asked.

“Yes, Sir, I am.” I said.

“I could tell,” he said, “because it is obvious your patriotism and dedication to this country are much less than the active duty.”

Total silence ensued.

As I have said previously, I only lost my temper a handful of times in 33 years in the Air Force and, prior to this moment, only once. This would be the second.

So eager am I to thrash out the anthrax inoculation issue that I almost wrote book three before book two, and out of chronological sequence. This, to satisfy my ire at the treatment of me and the rest of the troops by the military. Hell will be paid for what they did to us. They got away with it, but they will not escape unscathed by history.

My traffic light went green, I popped my clutch and leapt forward. What happened next took about two seconds and was over before I was fully aware it had happened. As the car sprang into motion I suddenly saw the right side profile of a 12-year old girl directly in front of the car. Instantaneously my front end caught her at hip level and bent her onto the hood causing her to strike it heavily with her right shoulder. Somehow, reflexively, and in few milliseconds, my foot found the brake pedal and the car dove to a stop. This motion catapulted the girl from the hood into the intersection as if shot from a cannon, schoolbooks and schoolgirl flying.

The supportive civilians were greatly outnumbered initially by the protest army, but soon were gaining numbers and claiming one side of the street from the anti-war crowd. The simple, square, middle-class workers and families were sticking up for us when, seemingly, all of officialdom had sided against us.

The rear end of the tanker hovered before us in the utter blackness of the developing typhoon as some sort of alien space ship, more glowing chimera than airplane. In some ways it appeared to be a large manta ray with two radiant eyes that were the under-wing illumination lights of the plane.

After several minutes of haughty posturing and faux disinterest, I eye-locked with one of the Russians and could not let go, nor could he.

The bell to commence the class was still a few minutes away. The Russian second grade students arrayed before me slowly showed awareness that some aura had descended on the room, almost like they were, somehow, in a church.

“Wheels up, Crash Landing Checklist,” I said while proceeding five miles to the final approach fix. I shuddered as I called for that. While I had some familiarity with the checklist, it was a dozen items long with several decision trees to be navigated and I had never delved deeply into it; I presumed I would have time to make those decisions. Now I would get to delve quickly…with three engines, no gas, and no time.

After working together for five years, I came to say good-bye to the staff before departing for Dover. I shook hands all around and shook Susan’s last. Tears welled up in both of us, but that is how we needed to leave it.