Bong!, Bong!, Bong!....,
Bong!, Bong!, Bong!
raucous alarm rips the silence of the tranquil night.
launch the ready 4Y, Intercept"
across the Air Station.
a minute ago it seemed
fell asleep fatigued
now it's one AM
and instantly awake
the other two pilots I roll out of bed,
donning flight suit and boots.
to the OPS center on the run,
duty chief has the skinny.
26 Victor inbound from Wake,
1 feathered, three hours out,
to the plane on the warm, sultry night,
distant shower dims the lights from Pearl.
through the bomb-bay doors I scramble
my seat at the nav table.
front the crew chief has started No. 3,
noise, the eerie dim red lighting,
quick scurrying of the other crewmen,
smells of oil and fuel and leather
a sense of unreality
to the excitement of the moment.
we are taxiing to runway 4 Right.
Guard Rescue Six Six Three Zero Four,
are cleared to intercept Clipper 26 Victor,
via rhumb line track,
and maintain eight thousand,
right after takeoff, ........"
to Nav, I need an intercept time ASAP."
advancing the last position of 26 Victor
our mutual airspeed I have the answer.
to Pilot, Intercept at 1250 Zulu."
we climb through five thousand,
the edges of a large shower
are soon above the clouds and heading west.
stars above are brilliant and everywhere,
beauty an easy distraction
the work to be done.
stare at the Loran-A receiver.
this course towards Wake
are good signals for a while.
there's a series of neat little fixes on the chart.
won't last long!
to pilot, groundspeed one six zero,
track, ETI still looks good."
rumble along on autopilot,
P4Y is a lumbering relic (no boosted controls)
a beauty all its own.
eighteen thirties breath fire from the exhaust stacks
cast an eerie glow.
the plane all the crewmen work
contemplate their tasks.
radioman is forever busy, talking with 26 Victor
other Coast Guard
ordnanceman thinks about the possibility
flares and equipment drops.
pilot muses through all the what-ifs.
26 Victor loses another engine,
he has to ditch!
we lose an engine!
to crew, we have a line of heavy showers ahead.
gonna punch through them shortly,
batten down the hatches!"
scan the night sky from my nearby port.
stars are flickering through the sudden clouds above,
they are gone!
smooth air begins to change,
plane begins a series of unpredictable lurches.
lightning fills the night,
an instant it frames the picture of a tortured sky.
the bottom seems to fall out.
are descending rapidly in a down draft.
twenty three hundred, climb power" calls the pilot.
of my carefully placed charts
Nav tools are now scattered on the deck.
wayward cup of coffee has added to the mess.
ten minutes or more the 4Y goes through
series of unnerving oscillations.
turbulence is frightening!
crewman concentrates on the task at hand.
it is over, the stars are out again.
feeling of relief for all.
to pilot, twenty minutes to intercept.
left to two six five."
26 Victor, Coast Guard Three Zero Four here.
estimate intercept at five five.
key you mike for the next thirty seconds
we try for a bearing."
rush up to the cockpit.
pair of eyes to look for the approaching Clipper.
minutes drag by.
bearing effort was indeterminate.
our homer was bad.
don't want to overshoot!
a star, fifteen degrees to port
low on the horizon looks a bit different.
there some motion there?
minute later both planes confirm each other's sighting.
we turn to port while keeping 26 Victor in sight.
has another hour and ten to make Honolulu.
will fall slowly behind but should
able to keep her in sight.
Clipper captain requests we slide by to port
the passengers can see us
a comforting silhouette in the night)
trade places with the copilot
the rest of the flight
am anxious about reeencountering the earlier squall.
it has wandered away
given up its energy to the night.
there are lights off to port, - Kauai.
Coast Guard Six Six Three Zero Four,
hundred west, approaching Swordfish, request descent."
is always the best part of the flight!
from radio, 26 Victor is on deck at Honolulu
says many thanks and good morning."
Oahu and Barbers Pt. loom ahead.
few showers linger in the distance.
Guard Six Three Zero Four cleared to land 4 Right."
flaps and gear are down,
landing lights illuminate
crashing surf against the beach below.
the edge of the runway slips beneath us
we are home again.
wonder if the XO will let us sleep in?
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