Thunderstorms are muggers. Dark shapes lurk, you get an uneasy tingling in the back of your neck. BAM! Sudden, quick, turbulent, darkness, over.
One minute you are in bright, hazy glare, sunglasses. The next minute you are seeking high ground, peering around for the Ark.
I flew with Cool Nichole, who hails from California. After years of wooing, I finally enticed this Princess to visit me in Bangkok. Then we rendezvoused in the Philippines for a quick Cessna flight from Omni Aviation at Clark Field. Her first-ever flight in a spaceship.
This is a tale about a close encounter with Imperial Star Destroyers.
Enroute by car to Clark. Great weather. We can skim the beach at Iba. Leap Mt. Pinatubo. Somersault over rice fields near Arayat. Dismount with touch and go’s at Omni. Grand plans!
Drat! We arrived at the airbase an hour ago. Visual flying is suspended due to poor visibility in haze!
At right, the Princess hangs out with Chewbaca, waiting for the merry men in the control tower to declare 8 kilometers of visibility. Outside, the sun is blinding.
Yup, that’s the alluring Nichole. My 8-year old niece. This is a ‘Young Eagle’ flight!
I lure the bored Princess out to the runway. We are quite safe, since flying is suspended.
NIchole, who is in training for California state competitions in gymnastics, does a balance beam routine on runway zero-two Omni’s piano bars.
The Tower gives us clearance! The Princess and Indiana Jones Junior hurry through flight planning. I love it when my copilots do all the paperwork.
Engine start! Our X-Wing fighter is in perfect shape.
Taxiing out. Mt. Pinatubo clear of clouds. Clearly, a great day for a memorable ride.
“Let’s Go Flying!”
Nichole recites Carlo’s favorite checklist item as we roll on takeoff.
Touch and go’s on Zero-Two Omni. I’ll stay in the pattern until she trusts me, then fly east to the training areas.
I am tempted to turn west over the mountains to Iba, but, are those dark cumulo-nimbus up there? And why is the windsock turning inside out?
I turn my X-wing east instead. A wise choice, born of tens of thousands of flight experience in everything from warbirds to jumbo jets.
(I actually have only 400 hours, but I saw all the movies of famous wise pilots like Flash Gordon, Han Solo and Kareem Abdul Jabbar, you see, about avoiding dark objects in the sky.)
Chewy and Leia cruise at 2,200 parsecs over Tatooine at Charlie 2. Ear-to-ear grins all around the cockpit as we swing over rivers and wave to the fishermen in their bancas.
Then I hear the Tower call a runway change to Two-Zero Omni. Wind reversal. I remember the inside-out windsock.
Dark objects are speeding to the airfield. They look like black clouds but of course we know they are Imperial Star Destroyers. We are hopelessly outnumbered.
I call Clark Tower:
“Obi Wan, I have Princess Leia at Charlie Two, request immediate RTB to Rebel Base.”
“1513 report Magalang be advised traffic Cessna at Charlie One.”
They don’t say, “Use the Force, Luke,” but of course they meant to.
We are under attack! Water phasers and rain torpedos are spattering the windshield as we slide down final approach.
Short final past the “Mangalizer”, the three mango trees beside the approach end of the runway. The radio beam that guides airplanes to ‘blind’ landings on an instrument runway is called the “Localizer”. Local wags christened our three mango trees at Omni as a visual guide for our non-instrument runway.
Four seconds later another spaceship lands in the opposite direction on the main Clark runway 700 meters away. The white shafts are Imperial Death Rays tearing up the edge of our Rebel Base.
We are on the ground. Windsock straining to escape the Death Rays.
C-3P0 signals full stop with his red paddles. The sky to the north still clear. Princess Leia runs for the canteen as Indy Junior and I secure the airplane.
Boom! The thunderstorm slams into us. Mechanics tie our ship down as three other Rebel Fighters straggle in out of the overflowing sky. The pilots report turning onto final approach with nothing but the Mangalizer in sight.
The 45-minute deluge turns high noon into dusk.
I run to and from the airplane like an idiot, arms filled with headsets, GPS, flight bag, laser blasters. The storm liquifies Tatooine into a swampy Dagobah. I expect Yoda to pop up any minute.
The Stormtrooper assault passes us. The black deluge stomps on to the north.
By then we are in our car, headed south for a sumptuous lunch. Bursting with fond memories of “First Time In A Real Airplane.”
You can’t do that in an Airbus or Boeing. They don’t let Princesses and laser blasters in their cockpits 😛
Posted from Paris, July 16, 2008.