‘ 803 on the deck for Alpha 9 ‘
The Tannoy’s blare knifes into my whisper adapted ears. Just in case we weren’t all aurally maimed the first time it’s repeated.
‘ 803 on the deck for Alpha 9’
Muttering vileness we slither out into the merciless sun and sort of scuttle along keeping to the shade. We are a motley posse in fairness. Uniforms are most certainly not and modifications for heat are as varied and idiosyncratic as their owners. I must have the only pair of camouflage capris here. Scratch that. I know I have. I clamp my boonie hat to my head with the Mickey Mouse – style ear protection and slide on the shades. A grain of sand or a bit of dust driven into your eye by jet blast or prop wash would be tedious in the extreme.
The jet acquires the line and screams towards us. I raise my wands,like truncated light-sabers, and convey some slight corrections to the skipper through some semi-occult gestures and signs. Like magic the whole fucking thing comes together and the bird settles into a temporary nest. Via some more pithy waving the man up front promises me he has cut the engines and that none of my crew will get sucked into a turbine. I trust but verify and manage to convey same to the captain with a healthy dose of skepticism. It’s amazing how nuanced a raised eyebrow,tilted head and a hand on a hip can be. My No.2 chocks the nose gear and hooks up the Ground Power. He then scuttles like a lizard under the belly of the plane to hook up the air conditioning. I’m delighted to see him afterward. People soup is a bastard to clean up.
Seconds later the combat-turn dance begin and the fuelers,engineers,commissary,loaders and crews swarm into action like ants attacking a fresh corpse. I’m new to this still and the pace is astonishing. One payload comes off and another goes on and it’s a 112 F in those bays. I’m sweating like Mary Harney in a cake factory. Stuff is coming and going left right and centre and I’m somehow supposed to be coordinating it while doing the weight and balance maths in my head. No biggie until you realise the payload on hand bears no relationship whatsoever to the planned payload. Oh and we’re tankering a shit load of fuel too.
Fuck it. We get it done with time to spare.
803 is now ready to be launched again. Once I’ve let her go that is. In a minute of two she belongs to the crew but until then she is mine. I am obsessively anal about the walk-around and I refuse to let it go until I have done a complete and thorough inspection.
I’d want someone doing it for me if I were on it.
Grudgingly I cede control and fix the crew with a beady eye and shoot telepathic warnings to them not to bend my aeroplane.
That’s right bitches. It’s fucking well mine.