It's about my only short adventure story to date. I'm a big fan of the McDonnel Douglas DC3's and if i ever owned one, the paint job described in the story is how it would it to be painted.
Over the roar of the DC3's engines in the cockpit of their home, co-pilot Jason switched the radio to the information channel.
It was a beautiful aircraft. It manoeuvered with the elegance and grace of a ballerina. It was fuel efficient and very spacious, as it was once a popular passenger aircraft. One of the quietest aircraft of its time, its manoeuverability was so smooth you could turn it on a sixpence and it wouldn't stall.
This particular aircraft was special to the pilot and co-pilot. It was privately owned by the both of them and was converted into a "flying house". They had added a computer, two beds, a TV, several seats from its passenger days, a small galley consisting of a combination microwave, gas stove and plenty of Tupperware and a table and chairs. It had had a paint job too, a black and silver fuselage with gold stripes all the way down the outside with the stripes breaking out into blue and gold stars at the tail and the words Black Knight Sky in red underneath the cockpit and on the fuselage.
‘Wind Direction and Speed: 35km south, southeast. QnH, air pressure to set to: 1024. Cloud cover: eight-eighths at 4000FT. Temperature: 25 degrees Celsius. Heavy rain expected to continue until 14:00 hours' crackled the radio.
‘Hmm, not much change then,' Robert said to Jason as he changed the radio to the emergency channel to pick up any distress signals.
‘Nope. Do you think we'll make it to Gisborne with these transformers before the rain gets too bad?' asked Jason
‘Yeah, probably. We'll be out of the Ureweras around one o'clock perhaps; it's just gone 10:00,'
Suddenly there was a very loud crack and a deafening screeching noise coming from the right side. Jason almost fell out of his seat. Robert looked out of his window to find absolute horror. It was the right engine. Thick black smoke was pouring out of the bottom and the propeller was stuck fast.
‘THE RIGHT ENGINE! Go to full power on left engine! Give it full left rudder!' shouted Adam, as he too shoved his foot on the left rudder. ‘She's too heavy, we are losing height fast'.
‘Okay, Robert what are our options?' asked Jason, who sounded terrified.
‘Don't worry, we'll make it, trust me. Call for help,' shouted Robert as he was trying desperately to keep the plane level and in one direction, while also switching to the emergency channel and the SQUAWK code 7700 on the radar transponder.
‘MAYDAY! MAYDAY! MAYDAY! TO ANYONE PRESENT, THIS IS DC3 NZAJD! 2 P.O.B (Persons On Board)! WE HAVE LOST THE RIGHT ENGINE DUE TO POSSIBLE LACK OF OIL PRESSURE! UNABLE TO MAINTAIN PRESENT HEIGHT! IF POSSIBLE HOPING TO PANCAKE INTO THE TREES! CURRENTLY OVER THE UREWERAS AT 4000FT HEADING 75° 60 NAUTICAL MILES D.M.E (Distance Measuring Equipment) FROM GISBORNE!' screamed Jason.
Suddenly the radio crackled into life ‘This is Gisborne Information. We have received your mayday and have contacted the appropriate authorities. Can we be of any other assistance?'
‘No. There is nothing you can do for us, but thank you for the offer.' Robert noticed a teardrop fall out of the corner of Jason's eye and onto the radar transponder. It had stopped blinking. Auckland radar had lost them.
‘It's getting lower and lower Jason! We have about 45 minutes left in the sky... you'll have to bail out while I keep it flying for as long as I can! Get out when I'm at 500 feet above ground. I can hold her till we get to the end of the valley I have just turned into. Get your chute on and come back!!'
‘You have a family ahead of you, a wife, two kids, and a home. All I have is this plane! A good captain always goes down with his ship. If I leave this seat with all the power on one side, the plane will roll over and into the ground in seconds. GO NOW!'
‘All right... I'll do it!'
‘If we both try to bail out, we'll die before we even get to the door! If you bail out you'll survive and I might even have a chance. GO!!!' urged Robert.
The ridge was getting closer and the Black Knight Sky was slowly getting lower each second. Jason rushed from behind him and returned half a minute later with his parachute on and a survival backpack.
‘You've been the best co-pilot anyone could ask for, and an even better friend. But it's time to say goodbye. There's my bank account number, a gold ring and photos in the cabinet next to the beds. Here's the key. Hey! Make sure I'm remembered, alright?' Robert had tears rolling down his cheeks while applying all of his strength to one side of the control column and pushing the left rudder pedal to the floor with both feet.
‘You're a good friend Robert, the best a man can ask for. I'll miss you mate,' Jason finally cried out through a stream of tears.
‘Cheers mate. Now go, quick!' And Jason disappeared from behind him.
After gliding down for a few minutes he hit the trees with such force that he snapped several braches but luckily managed to grab one, unclip his parachute and climb down.
In the cockpit of the DC3, Robert was fighting for his life. At such a slow speed it was extremely hard to control. He followed the valley right to the end and turned sharply. Unfortunately that cost him speed and height. He could now hear the fuselage snapping the branches from the tops of the trees. A few seconds, but what felt like an eternity later, he finally crashed into the side of the mountain.
The force of the impact killed him instantly. The trees ripped and tore the fuselage as if it was paper. Eventually the DC3 slowed to a stop after traveling 50 metres crashing through trees from, 113 to 0 kilometres in five seconds. Unfortunately it was never be to be seen again from the air.
Jason, however, had survived because of the distress signal he sent out. He was found a few days later by the search party from Gisborne. When he fully recovered from the horrible experience, he contacted Roberts father, and told him all about it.
‘Good evening, Sir. You must be Adam's father. I was I close friend of his,' Jason greeted John, at the door of his friends father's house.
‘What? What do you mean you were a close friend of his? What's happened to my son?'
‘He has died in a crash. I was accompanying him until 5 minutes before he died. I am terribly sorry,' said Jason
‘What? No! How?' John was almost shouting by now.
‘Well, we were flying from Whangarei to Gisborne, a cargo of power line transformers. We were over the Ureweras when the engine ceased and he couldn't get it going again so I sent out a distress signal and waited to go down. If he had left his seat we would have both died. He told me to jump at 500ft while he kept it flying. He gave me his bank account number and a gold ring,' Jason explained.
‘I think you should have the ring. He told me you gave it to him on his 16th birthday. Once again I am terribly sorry,' sobbed Jason.
‘Please don't be. It was no-one's fault. He gave his life to save yours. I will never forget that. Thank you for your kind words,'.
‘We will arrange a memorial service for him soon. I am so sorry but I must be going. Goodnight sir,' said Jason rather anxious to leave Roberts father to his grief.
The memorial service was held for the dead hero later that week. 650 people attended the service and all of them loved Robert and Jason. A year later Jason had bought another DC3 and called it Black Knight Sky 2. He turned it into an exact replica of the original Black Knight Sky.
Some time later while delivering the new transformers with his son, Jake, on the same route over the Ureweras, something caught the youngster's eye.
‘Hey Dad, what's that? Over there, down in the trees. It has something on the fuselage... Go lower and take a closer look. B-l-ack. Black Kn-igh-t. Black Knight S-k-y. Dad - I think it's your old plane, the Black Knight Sky! Dad! Dad?' He looked up at his father to see a tear drop fall out of the corner of his eye. It fell onto the radar transponder. It had stopped blinking. Auckland Radar had lost them.