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“The Righteous Stuff” – Chapter 5

September 16, 2009

The Righteous Stuff

by Jeffrey D. Waggoner

based on characters and situations in the

“Domination of the Draka” novels written by S.M. Stirling

CHAPTER 5

ODENATHUS FLIGHT TESTING FACILITY

SYRIA PROVINCE

DOMINATION OF THE DRAKA

MAY, 1943

The runway stretched out on the flat desert ahead of Jaeger for as far as he could see. The sun beat down on the plain, northeast of Damascus, and the temperature was over thirty-five degrees already, at only 0800 hours. He went through the checklist carefully, speaking slowly and carefully to the control tower as he read off fuel and engine information for the engineers listening in to the transmission.

The Inkanyamba was a twin-engine jet interceptor, one of the first in the Domination, and Jaeger was testing one of three prototypes. The plane was almost ready to go into production, and if this round of tests were successful, the first planes should be rolling off the lines by early fall. The interceptor had been tested in a variety of intercept and attack situations, and had shown itself to be stable and durable. Jaeger was happy with the plane, and thought the pilots who would fly it over Germany would have such an advantage over even the Me-165 jets the Nazis were flying that they would have almost complete air superiority. Now it was a matter of seeing where the edge of the design envelope really was.

“Checklist completed. Ready to roll.” Jaeger fastened his oxygen mask, adjusted the straps of his harness, and doublechecked the handle of his ejection seat. It was a new model, designed specifically for the Inkanyamba. It was thought that the plane would be so fast that the solid-fuel rocket on the Hawk or Shark II fighter seats would not be powerful enough. Jaeger thought that might be true, but this Freya-forsaken thing might take his head off, too.

The tower controller’s voice crackled in his headset. “Commence takeoff. All runways are cleah.”

Jaeger eased the throttles forward and released the brakes. He was able to control the plane on the ground with slight taps of the rudder pedals. The jet engines were far back on the fuselage, as were the main wings. Small canard winglets were just visible from his cockpit on either side of the nose of the plane, part of the design stolen from a Yankee design called the Curtis Ascender. Of course, that had been a pusher-prop propeller plane, but the aerodynamics of the design, marginal as a propeller-powered aircraft, were thought by Draka engineers to be so sound that they could use them for a powerful jet interceptor.

Apparently they were right. The plane popped off the runway like the high-performance, overpowered vehicle it was, and Jaeger banked north as he climbed. The flight plan called for a series of speed runs from north to south, first at an altitude of seven thousand meters, then at three, then at fifteen hundred. None of the runs were long – fifty to seventy-five kilometers at the most – because what was gained in speed was lost in range.

At seven thousand meters Jaeger announced to the tower that he was banking back to the south and beginning his speed run. He pushed the throttles forward to fifty per cent power. Mach 0.6. He made few comments on the radio. The Draka were very careful to maintain security in communications, even this far away from any Yankee listeners. Most of the telemetry from the plane was encoded, anyway, and was sent continually to the engineers’ readouts in the tower.

He increased power to sixty per cent. The pitch of the engines’ roar slid upward easily. Seventy per cent. Mach 0.8. Still no real turbulence. The plane was now traveling as fast as any aircraft the Draka might encounter in Europe. Seventy-five per cent. Jaeger keyed the microphone, thinking, Couldn’t we get some voice-activated microphones into test planes sometime soon?

“Gettin’ a little bumpy now.” The mach meter indicated 0.86, and other pilots flying at transonic speeds had encountered the same phenomenon. He pushed the throttles forward to just over eighty per cent.

“Mach zero point nine three.” The nose of the plane wanted to rise. It was taking both hands on the stick to hold it steady. How could he handle the throttles if he had to hold on to the stick? He knew the pilots who had gone supersonic in dives always said that close to Mach one was where it smoothed out again. Could he get it there?

Jaeger pressed his right elbow firmly to the cockpit wall and leaned forward as much as the harness would allow. He could barely brace his right arm against his body enough to quickly slide his left hand to the throttles.

The nose of the plane suddenly shot upward – not far, just enough that Jaeger pushed the throttles forward and then grabbed the stick again with both hands, just before he lost control. When he looked down he saw that he had pushed the throttle levels all the way forward.

The pitch of the engines changed again, and the turbulence disappeared. Mach one point oh-five! In level flight! The mach meter was still climbing, and Jaeger keyed the microphone to tell the controller. Before he had a chance to say anything there was a loud ping! from  behind him and the pitch of the engines dropped suddenly.

Jaeger was slammed violently to the left, the microphone thrown from his hand. There was a sharp crack and he was slammed even harder to the left. He grunted and pulled the stick, pushing on the rudder pedal. The plane went into a spin anyway, and he pushed the stick forward.

Jaeger had had the rules for coming out of a spin drilled into him for years. He knew there was no chance with this plane, still close to supersonic, diving and starting from so low an altitude. He grabbed the latches on both sides of the canopy and pulled with all his strength.

The handles were ripped out of his gloved hands by a combination of centrifugal force and near-supersonic slipstream.  He reached down to the ejection seat handle between his legs and pulled.

With a roar, the solid-fuel rocket motor in the base of the ejection seat fired. Jaeger was frozen in a head-down position by the sudden acceleration, with his hands between his legs. They were pinned in place while the rocket was firing. He never even saw the plane flash past him.

The rocket motor cut off as quickly as it had started. The seat was now floating, and Jaeger could move his head, though painfully. The helmet and faceplate was all that had saved him from breaking his neck, and his neck and shoulder muscles screamed at him as he looked around him. He guessed he was about five thousand meters up, still attached to the seat.

His muscles in agony, he raised his right hand and pressed the harness quick-release button.  Then he kicked backward with his heels at the brace on the bottom of the seat. He fell away from the seat, head down.

Finally, Jaeger was able to spread his arms and legs as he had been taught, then pulled the cord. With a loud snap and a jerk, the parachute opened and he passed out.

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