The Old Bold Pilot by Stu Duncan

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The Old Bold Pilot

The search for the missing plane has been called off without success. Retired, with time on his hands, Steve decides to search a different area in his own plane and alone. A glint through the trees causes him to land and hike into the spot where he has seen the glint. But he stumbles upon a drug smuggling operation with a unique method of moving drugs across the border. He gets caught and his future looks very limited.

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The Old Bold Pilot by Stu Duncan

There is a saying in aviation, "There are old pilots, and there are bold pilots, but there are no old bold pilots."

This is the story of an old pilot who unexpectedly became a bold pilot.

Chapter 1 - The Chase

Steve was flying an amateur-built aircraft at 9,500 feet. This was not a normal flight. He was being followed. Looking over his shoulder to see behind the plane was impossible. He couldn't see them, but he knew they were there. They would be in a Cessna 172. The 172 was faster than his Zenair 701, but he was far more manoeuvrable.

Suddenly he heard ping ping ping and three holes appeared in his door. They had missed him ... but not the plane. He pulled the throttle to idle and pointed the nose down. They were faster in level flight, but they could not keep up with his rate of descent. He rolled left and right attempting to shake them off, but he knew that in three or four minutes he would run out of altitude, and they would again have the advantage. He would have to come up with a new escape plan very quickly.

The sun had already set and the light was disappearing rapidly. If he could evade them for a few more minutes he could turn off his strobe lights and disappear into the inky blackness. But could he evade them for those few minutes? He killed the strobes.

Suddenly a short section of straight road appeared in the forest beneath him. It was only about 600 feet long and then turned and was lost in the tall trees. His STOL (short take-off and landing) aircraft was capable of landing in less than 600 feet but the trees needed to be far enough apart for his wingspan and while the plane was capable, the shortest strip he had landed on was 900 feet. It was the only option and crashing on the ground was better than being shot out of the air.

He rolled right 270 degrees to get lined up for the road and then pointed at the near end of what was visible. Ping ping and two holes appeared in his Plexiglas roof. He would be on the ground before they could get lined up for another pass at him.

Steve was too high and too fast. He kicked the right rudder hard and threw the joystick in the opposite direction. The violent side-slip would lose speed and altitude quickly in his STOL aircraft but the plane shuddered in protest at the manoeuvre designed for much lower speeds.

He hit hard and long using up about half of his 600 feet before touching the ground. Both feet were pushing firmly on the toe brakes and the wheels were chattering mercilessly as they skidded along on the gravel road. As he came to the left curve in the road he leaned the joystick into the turn but the airspeed was now too low for the flaperons (combination flaps and ailerons characteristic of a 701) to be effective. He eased up on the right brake and the nose started to swing slowly to the left.

The trees had been cut wide at the curve as well as the road itself but there was no shoulder, just a drop off into the ditch. The 701 leaned to the right with the wheel on the edge of the gravel, and then he was around the curve and stopped.

He hopped out, jumped over the ditch, and disappeared into the forest. The 172 blasted overhead. The shots went wild. He could hear them climb and wheel around for another shooting pass. Steve realized that the 701 sitting on the curve was invisible in the high trees except when the 172 was right overhead and then there was only a second for shots from the handheld machine pistol. They couldn't get lined up on the piece of road that had become a runway because the 701 was too far around the curve. In the other direction, the road was curved and the trees hid his plane. Hmm! A temporary standoff.

Then he heard the 172 throttle down and realized the pilot was going to try to land. If the pilot was excellent they might pull it off, but they would not be able to take off and if they cracked up at the higher landing speed of the 172 they might not walk away. The 701 not only has a very slow landing speed of 35 mph and less but at that speed, a crash is very survivable. But his academic knowledge didn't solve Steve's problem if they got onto the ground. He had lost his gun escaping at the airfield. There were three of them, and they all were carrying weapons.

If they got onto the road without crashing badly, he would have to escape into the forest. He knew approximately where he was in Ontario, but he was ill-equipped. The 701 he had stolen to escape in had unknown equipment. He hadn't had time to do an inventory as they had chased him with their car down the taxiway at the airfield.

He couldn't hear the plane doing its approach because small planes are almost silent when throttled back and gliding. Should he chance going back to the plane to see if there was any survival equipment? If he was at the plane, and they managed their landing he would be caught out in the open, and they would know where he was when he re-entered the forest. Suddenly he heard a roar as the 172's throttle came on full power overshooting the road. Steve dashed to the 701. In the cargo bay, he found a first aid kit, fire extinguisher and a zippered bag. He hoped the bag was a survival kit. He grabbed it and ran back into the forest. Light was becoming an issue.

He unzipped the bag and felt around and found a flashlight. He kept it pointed into the bag so as not to broadcast his find while he looked for the much-needed survival gear.

The 172 went silent again. The light was so poor that if they didn't make it in this pass there wouldn't be enough time for another try. A new plan popped into his head. The 701 had been full of gas when he had escaped, and he had only flown about 20 minutes when they caught up to him. This plane did not have the optional extra tanks. If he could get back into the air he was good for 3 hours maximum. If he could get back into the air. He hadn't smelled gas, so they hadn't hit the fuel tanks.

But the darkness that was his friend in hopefully preventing the 172 from landing was also his enemy if he wanted to take off.

Crack! He heard their wingtip hit a tree limb at the side of the road and then a deafening roar as the 172 toppled onto the road and became a mangled pile of aluminum. He hurried to the edge of the curve to watch. It was important to know if anyone got out of the plane.

No fire. No noise. He waited for 10 minutes and saw no movement or sound. And now it was too dark to see anything. He needed to know the status of the 3 occupants of the 172. He walked cautiously and quietly, feeling his way along the gravel road. Steve didn't want to turn on the flashlight since that would announce his arrival and give his gun-toting friends something to aim at.

He didn't have to go far. The 172 was a pile of bent aluminum nestled in the ditch on the right side of the curve. The pilot hadn't even been close to pulling off the landing. Whoever had sent them was certainly to be feared, even by them. Steve inched closer every few moments and listened and then moved forward again. It was now dark. There were no street lights on this country road; no stars; no moon; no sounds. Five minutes later he decided that it was unlikely anybody was playing possum.

He switched on the flashlight holding it out to his left as far as his arm could reach. No gunshots. He swung the beam slowly onto the plane. It was upside down with one wing crushed along the fuselage. He could see into the smashed cockpit window. The pilot was hanging from his seat belt. His head was bloody and hanging at an odd angle. Steve moved forward a little and saw the man in the copilot's seat had been skewered by a broken wing strut. He wasn't breathing with a strut through his chest. What about the third passenger in the back seat? Steve moved forward until he could see more clearly into the back and caught his breath. The back seat was empty.

Steve swung the flashlight around into the darkness once again holding it away from his body. A 360-degree sweep showed nothing but road and trees. Where was the third guy? Steve switched off the flashlight. He moved quietly about 50 feet from where he had been and sat down. After 15 minutes of being eaten by mosquitoes, he decided that the third bad guy had not been in the plane and had perhaps been left at the airport to call the boss, whoever that was. Steve didn't know who specifically was trying to kill him. He turned the flashlight on and went back to the 172. He frisked the pilot as best he could and found his gun. A quick check confirmed it was loaded. The machine gun was nowhere to be found. Now what? He had to escape the bugs. There had been a tent in the survival kit. But he couldn't hang around here. Any moment a vehicle might come along and with the luck he had been having lately it wouldn't be a friendly farmer. He started back toward the 701 pointing the light ahead down the road trying to see the 701 around the curve. And then he tripped over something on the road and went crashing into the gravel. He dropped the light in falling and it went out. While feeling around for the light his hands brushed against something. It was clothing. A body was lying in the road. When his adrenalin rush calmed down, he realized that he had found the third man. He continued his search for the light without fear.

He found the light and turned it on and pointed it where he thought the body was. It hadn't moved and clearly the guy hadn't had his seat belt on. He was probably the one doing the shooting and had undone the seat belt for better manoeuvrability in the back seat. He was now suffering a really fatal case of road rash after being ejected through the windshield and careening down the gravel road. Steve had to do something soon or the mosquitoes would have all of his blood. He muttered something about, “You gotta love northern Ontario”.

He hurried back to the 172 and pushed on the wreckage. It moved. Small planes are relatively light. He now aligned what was left of the plane so that it more or less pointed back down the road. No gas fumes even though the plane was upside down. Perhaps they hadn't been as fortunate as he in finding a plane that was full of fuel. Right now their problem was working for Steve. He checked the dash and the master switches were on. He hit the landing light switch and suddenly the road lit up. The wreckage was far enough off the road that he thought he could get the 701 past the wreck.

He headed back to the 701 stopping to drag thug number 3 into the ditch. He leaned on the 701's tail and swung it around. This take-off would have more care than the one when he was escaping. Although he was concerned about the potential for an unexpected vehicle he decided the risk of doing a careful preflight inspection was worth the time since he had been rather brutal in getting the plane onto the road and it had landed hard. He did a standard walk around inspection and was surprised to find that the sturdy little plane had not suffered. Steve hopped in and turned on the masters. He ran through a normal preflight checklist in his mind and everything was fine. Unlike his own 701 which sported a very modern “glass” cockpit instrument panel, this 701 had the classic six-pack of analog instruments. Not a problem. Steve had learned to fly in 150's and 172's with the same type of instruments. Engine start. Navigation lights on. Landing lights on. The landing lights were poorly aimed. He had noticed the call sign letters on the dash. C-IGKZ. The “I” meant that this plane was registered as an ultralight. The landing lights were more for the “cool” factor than for function since ultralights can't legally fly at night. However, Steve was happy for the extra light to add to the 172's lights. He pulled around the bend and was appalled to see the height of the trees at the end of the 600 feet of straight road. If you can land a 701, then there is room to take off. The opposite is true for most planes. They take substantially less runway for landing than for take off. But those were really tall trees. Getting off the ground was one thing. Clearing the trees was another.

While landing, he had noticed a swampy lake under him on his final approach to the road. It was lined up with the far end of his “runway”. He hadn't taken a good look being a little preoccupied with getting onto the road and avoiding being shot. He would take a chance that it was clear of trees. Brakes on, full throttle, stick back, brakes off, a standard short field take-off procedure. Even in the “no wind” condition, the 701 was in the air in under one hundred feet. It would be close. He wasn't sure if he would have cleared the trees or not but the landing lights showed no trees at the swampy lake's edge as he left the road behind and climbed over the lake. Off to the right, he noticed lights flitting through the trees on the road. He killed all of his lights, landing, navigation, and strobes to avoid detection.

He banked gently around continuing to climb, and then he saw the vehicle arrive at the 600 feet of straight road. Suddenly red flashing lights came on. A cop! Somebody had heard the planes and the crash. He throttled back to reduce the engine sound. Was the cop's arrival just dumb luck? The ELT (emergency locator transmitter) in the 172! He had forgotten about it. It went off when they crashed. If it was a newer 406 ELT it would have sent a signal to a satellite and SAR (search and rescue) would have known immediately about the crash and the location. It had already been at least an hour since the crash. Shortly a helicopter would be showing up from Trenton Air Force Base search and rescue. The cop must have already been in the area when he got the call. The ELTs are notoriously unreliable with about a 15% success factor. Just my bad luck that the darned thing worked this time Steve thought.

Until two days ago Steve was leading a quiet normal retired life, which he found faintly boring. He was a law-abiding citizen living with his girlfriend of thirty-six years. Steve wished he was home in bed with her and back to leading his faintly boring life. He hoped that they hadn't found her.

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Copyright 2016 Stu Duncan

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means – electronic, mechanical, photocopying, and recording or otherwise – without the prior written permission of the author, except for brief passages quoted by a reviewer in a newspaper or magazine. To perform any of the above is an infringement of copyright law.

The Old Bold Pilot is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

Cover courtesy of Andrew Breithaupt

ISBN 978-1-7750889-1-2 The Old Bold Pilot (epub)

The Old Bold Pilot is available through Kobo

You can contact the author by sending an email to Thank you for your feedback, positive and negative, both appreciated.

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