Last night, Lin had to watch "Dancing With the Stars," and I had to read Eric Brown's, "Wings on My Sleeve." Well just before that, I had to get into another battle with bureaucracy, this time over phosphorus binders, vascular calcification and formulary choices, as defended by a Pharmacology PhD., who was quite polite, and thoroughly professional, and totally missed the point in the references I sent her in Phase I of the forthcoming battle... Why the fuck don't the bureaucrats just be honest and say they don't want to spend the money to buy the drug that I feel, after considering the evidence, is best for my patient? Maybe, this is a battle with a dragon that I can slay, maybe not, and calling her a dragon, is not really accurate, but she didn't get the message, first time around, and the sub-theme is, "Give me the respect of not throwing jargon and bromides at me, and just say, that 'The money isn't there', instead of finding that the evidence in peer-reviewed journals doesn't stand up." Bullshit!
But, that's still not what this rant is about.... just the background.
I'm all the way up to page 47. I'm a slow reader, but I'm digesting every word. Here's a quote.....
"The date was 11th September, 1942. The ship was in the Clyde. I took off from Macrihanish just before lunch and I headed for the Biter's position.
I picked her up and started to think of my approach path, and came in. As I closed the stern, I swung the nose to starboard and counteracted the swing by putting on slight opposite bank. In this way, I made the Seafire crab in sideways. so that I had a view of the deck over the leading edge of the wing.
I sank towards the stern. I was over the roundown at a speed very close to the stall. Quickly, I took off the bank and kicked off the rudder as she sank on the deck. She made a good three-point touchdown and caught a wire.
At this time familiarity had me very casual in my use of the batsman. In my approach, I had not even questioned why there was no batsman on the deck. And that was not all. There was, I now noticed with wonder, no one at all on the deck. I thought, My God, this is a switched-off ship! An awful thought occurred to me. I shot a glance over the side. The wire which my hook had miraculously caught was flat on the deck. I still did not quite catch on. Then I saw a senior officer advancing on me down the deck, the brass glaring from his cap.
He stepped up to the cockpit. It was the Captain. He said, 'I say, old boy, there's nobody here. They're all at lunch.' It was only then that I saw that there was a G flag flying, meaning, 'Go home'. The carrier was actually twenty five degrees out of wind. I felt very small, very stupid, inexcusably careless - and stupendously lucky.
Fortunately the Captain took my wild adventure in quite another way. He reasoned that I had successfully landed a Seafire under just about the most adverse conditions possible - in a cross wind, with no batsman (landing signals officer) and the arrester wires down. He made the signal, 'Trials completely successful.'
Now that is writing. Succinct. Pungent. Self-deprecating. Humorous. the best of England, okay Scotland! Edinburgh. I must never confuse a Scot with an Englishman.
And, that is leadership from the bureaucracy. The Captain realized that this potential crash proved the feasibility of the Seafire as a carrier plane, although a challenging one, it would prove to be, and this demonstrated why Eric Brown was to become one of the greatest test pilots in the world. My friend, Wing Commander John Freeborn has signed some of the same paintings with Eric Brown, so its likely he knows him, and John is pretty colorful with his opinions, so, I'm going to ask John about this description and his impressions of the man.
And, the Now My friend, Dr. Bob Carlson, of Sitka Alaska, and what used to be the Indian Health Service, sent me this article, "The Last Frontier of Flying" from the New York Times.
Be it the Biter in the Clyde, or a Beaver in the bush, flying can be very hazardous, and the skill of a good pilot is life saving.... that's why I'm a nephrologist reading Eric Brown and the New York Times, and getting my thrills at 0 feet, in a Porsche, and mostly in a straight line, and well aware of 571 HP and 519 foot pounds, and 72 years.... a far cry from drifting my 1957 VW Bug (36 HP) around the Sunset Boulevard curves near UCLA, in the late Fifties. Dumb luck!