Tuesday, 9 April 2013

A Nightmare Revisited-a short story

I stood watching the clear morning sky and saw a four-engined plane streak across the blue sky. The morning was young and the scent of the flowers wafted in the air.  The plane was not really high up having just taken off from the airport. Dad and I were standing in our garden admiring the plants with the flowers blooming. We didn’t speak, my dad and I, as we were enjoying the morning air! Somehow there was a dread in my heart at that day which the freshness of the morning could barely drive away, but I kept it in my heart. Still, I said to my father, “those Easter lilies look really good, don’t they, dad?”  “Yes,” he said smiling at me. We then stepped out of the compound on to the road.  Instinctively I  looked at the morning sky and with a feeling of misgiving at the plane that had just taken off from the airport nearby. I could see the four vapour trails in the air right behind it. Immediately, I saw an object detach itself from the fuselage and saw it tumbling down right at us! “Dad!” I shouted, “Look out” with a growing sense of unease, as I saw that it was one of the four engines tumbling down towards us. My dad stood frozen to the ground as he now also saw the object tumbling to the ground.
I remembered at that moment my father's account of the time when he was serving as an apprentice mechanic at the Delhi flying club long before I had come to this world. He and a couple of his friends had just  left the hangers for a cup of coffee when a fighter plane, a Gnat came swooping in, trailing flames behind it. The plane crashed into the hanger my father had just left, and immediately six planes, an assortment of Tiger Moths and Cessnas, fully fuelled, caught fire. Some of my father’s friends had stayed back and were charred to cinders. My grandfather immediately after the incident told my father to quit his aspirations of being a flight mechanic.
I looked back at the sky with a sense of horror and saw the huge aircraft engine tumble towards the earth. Barely able to shout a warning, I saw the object slam into the Earth with a loud report some distance away. With a sense of relief at having escaped a direct hit I looked at my dad and then back at the  sky. The plane from which the engine had fallen had turned back towards the airport, which, I believed was in order to make an emergency landing.I  had heard and even experienced a situation where a four engined aircraft had lost one of its engines and yet was able to land safely on three engines! What I saw  however, gave me a sense of unease- the plane, now with its three engines seemed to have lost its gracefullness in flight. It seemed to rush towards the Earth,  towards us, it seemed in an uncontrolled dive.  I tried shouting a second warning to my father to move away from the flaming wreckage of what had once been a graceful mechanical bird, but then the words simply wouldn’t   come out! A few moments later, the silver bird slammed into the ground with an almighty explosion. It was quite far away, but then it seemed as if it was right beside us. The whole ground shook with the impact, and  then it seemed as if time had come to a stop.  I realized that it had been providence that had save us! The flames from the wreckage leaped into the sky it was clear that there would be not survivors!
This, incidentally had been my second experience of a plane crash! I recalled a similar incident that had taken place a couple of years back. Back then, I had been with my friends, returning from college in Delhi when we saw a  three engine plane spiraling in the air, looping the loop as the expression would have been. The plane, a three engine craft would gain height, do a loop, and then come back down.  My two friends and I could see that something was wrong. The engines of the plane seemed to be screaming rather loudly and we could see, my friends and I, that there was difficulty in maintaining a level flight. After what seemed an agonizing five minutes, the plane slammed into the ground a kilometer away from us. We rushed, my friends and I, and when we reached the crash sight, we could see the wreckage of the silver bird. We knew that there would be no survivors, and with great sadness proceeded back to the bus terminal.
In both the instances I could feel the last moments of the passengers the fear of what was to come, the faith that they had in their pilots, and the last moments when the curtain of life was drawn across their eyes. But then these were two dreams that I had seen flash by my mind in the morning hours. Blame it on an active imagination of having read many stories about plane crashes, or for that effect playing Flight Simulator games on my personal computer. I have also been involved in two incidents while flying which might have created such a vivid picture in my mind. One was when there was a flame out in one of the four engines of the now ancient 707 plane when a vulture was ingested while taking off from Addis Ababa airport, another was the crash of a DC-3 from an airport in Arbaminch. I aware in both the dreams about the complicated interplay of trim controls, flaps et al in controlling a flight where there is an engine flameout, or the engine falls off. There have been numerous instances of engines falling off planes in the past. Today, however, traveling by plane is said to be safer than traveling by road!

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