Monday, March 1, 2010

Cow on the Ice

A response to RJ Clarken's "Monday Maelstrom" in Flashy Fiction. The idea of using airplane pilots came from Malcolm Gladwell's Outliers.

They were flying their approach to Arlanda airport whose glideslope transmitter wasn't working. The countryside was covered with snow and even the evergreens were a single mass of white.

Sven, the first officer, pointed at a brown smudge in the center of a flat plain. "Look at the cow on the ice."

"Don't get distracted," said Captain Lebron, "I don't like the look of the clouds on the radar."

"Air America 377, you may begin you descent to 4000 feet," crackled the air traffic controller.

"Hey boss, we got five maybe ten minutes of fuel left. How about we get this thing down on the ground," said the flight engineer.

"Damn," said Lebron. "Sven, get that air traffic controller on the horn and tell them it's an emergency we better land fast." Sweat dripped from Lebron's eyebrows and the salt stung his eyes.

When the 747 flew into a low cloud, everything in front of them became a single splash of gray. The captain and the flight officer concentrated on the controls and digital displays. The plane bucked as they flew into wind shear.

"Tony, get on the intercom and talk to the crew and passengers," said Lebron.

"What do you want me to say?"

"Anything. Make sure they stay calm." The plane jerked again.

A lightning bolt flashed through the sky and the tendrils like thin twigs on a tree flickered across the aircraft's nose. He felt the thunderclap as the cloudy mist glowed white for seconds after the bolt flickered away.

"Lightning in winter?"

"You know it's one of those friendly Scandinavian greetings where bad is never good until worse happens," said Sven.

"Lovely," said Lebron as he swiped beads of sweat away. "Who told you that?"

"It's one of my dad's sayings. There, see the runway lights."

Captain Lebron flicked the switch to drop the landing gear. A light blinked on the dash but they didn't hear the familiar hum of the landing gear extending.

"Sven, get back in the passenger section and flip the manual override control to drop the landing gear."

Sven raced out of his seat and strode through first and business classes until he got to the panel between the seats in economy. He pulled up the floor panel and lowered himself down below the floor until just his waist and legs stuck up out of the floor and he could reach the override. He flicked it, but nothing happened for a second. He waited and then felt the hum of the landing gear.

He ran back to the front and Lebron pulled the nose up as Sven belted himself into his chair and the wheels hit the tarmac.

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