Home > Midnight Escape (Agents of HIS #2)

Midnight Escape (Agents of HIS #2)
Author: Sheila Kell

Chapter One

   Baltimore, Maryland

   Danny Franks's calm shattered at an audible pitch that signaled the helicopter rotors slowing while in midair. The Q and A between him and his FAA examiner ended abruptly as Danny’s check ride took a deadly turn.

   Allowing Wayne Singleton, his examiner, to plummet four hundred feet and die in a fiery crash would guarantee a failure of his private pilot license test. Not that he’d need it at that point either.

   As a former DEA agent and current HIS agent—an elite security organization—he’d faced death on more than one occasion, but he’d always had wits and access to a weapon to protect himself, whether it be a rifle, a handgun, a knife, or whatever he could find close at hand—and there was always something or a teammate near. Now, however, he only had his wits and instincts to safely land the 1821-pound aircraft on the outskirts of Baltimore, allowing them to both walk away unscathed.

   Even though hardened to danger, fear jolted his system, his gut clenched, and his heart pounded painfully and with frightening speed, setting his nerves on edge, ensuring he was indeed still alive. He’d been trained to control the impulses in his body and mind enough to act with calm and precision. At the moment, he couldn’t harness that control. With the sick feeling washing through him, he fought the internal battle to clear his mind and hone his senses to the current challenge.

   Slowing rotors was enough trouble, but he knew other trouble could exist. Wayne surely expected him to handle this and would only assume control if Danny was headed toward death, instead of a safe landing. A nervous Can you really land? slipped into his mind as his conscience rightfully questioned his ability. As a bead of sweat formed on his temple, his first instinct of What the hell did I get myself into? gave way to a Hell, yes, I could land this baby, in his mind’s response.

   With crystal clear focus, Danny immediately recognized the nature of the emergency. Ironically enough, he and Wayne were on their way to the airfield to simulate the autorotation and power failure problems they faced. Whereas, he’d have simulated the power loss and conducted a power recovery at three feet above ground level, without actually landing and not having the engine truly fail, he had to put the bird on the ground and in a hurry.

   “There’s no RTB. Can you handle it?” Wayne asked without any inflection in his voice. Although his need to state the obvious that they couldn’t “return to base” annoyed Danny. Yet he wasn’t a licensed pilot. Wasn’t the man worried? They were awfully close to the ground, with no room for error. Any wrong action meant their death. No pressure.

   The craziness that had immediately happened inside him steadied. Firmly and without hesitation, he responded with “Roger.” The determined side of him vowed he would land this helicopter, without the examiner assuming control.

   In an instant, every action necessary for recovering the aircraft breezed through Danny’s mind. First and foremost, he had to avoid a full rotor stall since there would be no chance of recovering control of the helicopter. He had the training to prevent that deadly situation, and, while he’d never hoped to have the problem outside of simulation, he could manage it. Experience had taught him the next few seconds would move swiftly but feel like a lifetime.

   With the power slowing in the engine—it no longer controlled the rotors—he faced another major challenge. He’d lost all torque. Losing the force that produced, or tended to produce, rotation, reinforced the danger to them.

   After long hours of studying, hours of flights in a simulator and then with an instructor, a grueling oral exam, and required hours of solo time, he knew he could manage this emergency. Heart pumping with adrenaline and a bit of fear, he vowed dying wasn’t in his plans for the day.

   Comfort with the Erstrom 480B allowed him to tackle the task at hand with expert actions. They had probably seven seconds before they would impact with the ground. With no airport in the vicinity, and no tower control, he quickly scanned the area for a safe place to land. They were over a fucking forest. There had to be something, or he may as well just let them drop like a rock as it’d have the same end result.

   From his training manual, the words on the page on this situation flashed in front of him as if he’d had the paper there. “In all cases, correct glide angle has the effect of producing an upward flow or air to spin the main rotor at some optimal rpm—storing kinetic energy in the blades—and slow descent using the stored up kinetic energy in the rotors—if done perfectly, the landing will be quite gentle by executing a flare, pitching the nose up at the right moment…. This will also have the effect of transferring some of that energy from the forward momentum into the main rotor, making it spin faster, which will allow for a smooth landing.”

   All that gibberish had once meant nothing to him, and he knew that to most non-aviation individuals, it probably still did, but after a while, he’d understood, and the knowledge had been ingrained in him, so he would automatically react to save the aircraft and passengers. He had to keep the nose down—enough to keep air flowing to optimize the rotation speed so they’d have a chance to land—but not too much, so he couldn’t recover enough to land on the skids. Softly.

   Okay, he told himself. Time to get this show on the road. Registering the winds about ten knots, he didn’t overly worry about their impact on landing. His white-knuckle grip on the cyclic pitch control, or joystick to video game advocates, that in layman’s terms was his steering stick, gave the appearance his life depended on it. Who was he kidding? It did. With his left hand grasping the collective pitch control, similar to the old emergency brakes where the handle pulled up to lock, he got down to business working the two controls, so the revolutions per minute of the rotors remained fast enough to avoid the deadly stall, plus gave them enough time to land. Softly, he reminded himself. He’d have scoffed if had a second to do so.

   He continued to assess the area, hoping for a clear spot to land. With a shot of relief, he caught sight of a clear area nearby. Mostly clear. Enough that they could land this bird. If he could make it that far.

   The dive he held dropped their altitude rapidly, which limited the distance they could travel. It’d be tough, but he wouldn’t give up. The alternative was to crash into the forest, which dramatically reduced their chances of survival.

   With confidence—and knowing it to be their only option to survive—he moved the cyclic to the right, ultimately turning the helicopter to the right to clear the forest and make for the level ground. His destination would be in the middle of someone’s field, but he didn’t care. With the power continuing to decelerate to nearly nothing, he had no other option than to nose the aircraft down a bit more to slow their glide speed.

   While the ground closed in faster, a bead of sweat slipped down his temple as they approached the landing spot. To his dismay, the power continued to bleed out of the helicopter. He still had the ability to control it, but….

   When his evaluator said, “You’re doing great. Check your glide speed,” Danny nearly jumped out of his harness.

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