Alpha Omega M.D. – Episode #259
…The Japanese have attacked the naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, making it impossible for us to return on an eastward course. We are to make our way west until we reach New York…
In the cockpit of the Pacific Clipper, they are ignoring whales as well… and anything but what is coming through to them on their radio. They are being told to proceed to Auckland and await further instruction there. Upon landing, they are instructed to head west and return the Clipper to La Guardia Field, New York. The regular return route is not safe.
FROM: CHIEF, FLIGHT SYSTEMS
SUBJECT: DIVERSION PLANS FOR NC18602
NORMAL RETURN ROUTE CANCELED STOP PROCEED AS FOLLOWS COLON STRIP ALL COMPANY MARKINGS COMMA REGISTRATION NUMBERS COMMA AND IDENTIFIABLE INSIGNIA FROM EXTERIOR SURFACES STOP PROCEED WESTBOUND SOONEST YOUR DISCRETION TO AVOID HOSTILITIES AND DELIVER NC18602 TO MARINE TERMINAL LAGUARDIA FIELD NEW YORK STOP GOOD LUCK STOP”
It is Captain Ford’s unsavory duty to explain the situation and their dilemma. “The United States has declared war on Japan,” he begins, eliciting a gasp from the assembled two-score interested parties. “The Japanese have attacked the naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, making it impossible for us to return on an eastward course. We are to make our way west until we reach New York. To do so, we must research a possible route and make sure we are prepared to make any repairs to the aircraft along the way. This is going to take some time.”
Most everyone is in a state of stunned disbelief. Individual inconveniences aside, these events mean that the war has hit home and it is the world’s second such in the span of two-plus decades. Leaders have come and gone, but the results are the same, which makes it hard for Americans to understand. None of these conflicts have taken place on our soil, at least until now. Could the Japanese be on their way to California?
“We will be returning to Noumea to pick up supplies and make sure that all Pan American employees are taken care of. From there we will stop at Gladstone, Australia. Anyone, who wants to get off, can do so there. In fact, I cannot make you stay aboard the Clipper, or prevent you from departing, from anywhere we land. But you will be responsible for your own passage home after we leave Queensland, Australia. I can tell you that none of our stops will exactly be exotic ports of call.
“In the meantime, we at Pan American Airways will do everything we can to make this journey as comfortable as possible. You will be reimbursed for any personal funds that you use.” That last statement is pure speculation, be is sure that Trippe would be so pleased to see his aircraft return, that he will make good that remote promise.
Alpha Omega M.D.
“The full-throat-ed roar of the four engines filled the cabin as NC 18602 moved forward into the takeoff run. The slap-slap of the water under the hull became a staccato drum beat. Spray whipped higher over the sea wings. After a few seconds the hull began to rise out of the water but was not quite free. Ford held the yoke steady as the airspeed indicator displayed the increasing speed: 40 knots… 50… 60… 70…
“At 70 knots Ford brought the yoke back gently. The Clipper nosed up. Passengers seated in the aft compartments might have thought they were about to submerge as the tail came close to the water and the spray hurtling back from the sea wings splattered the windows. At 75 knots Ford eased up a little on the yoke then immediately brought it back. This rocking motion was necessary to raise the ship “on the step” – that area of the hull which would be the last to break free from the clinging suction effect of the water now hurtling along underneath the ship. As the airspeed went to 80 knots the sound of the water abruptly ceased. The thrumming beat against the hull was replaced by a sudden smoothness as the great ship broke free and began climbing.” — from Ed Dover’s The Long Way Home