From Episode 6

If you haven’t already done so please read the Introduction to this book, first.  It will be helpful to better understand these sample episode extracts.

The Thule Girls – Getting the Wheels Down

The silver C-121 was in its tenth hour of the twelve-hour flight to Thule Air Force Base, on the Danish owned island of Greenland.  Fifteen passengers disembarked the cold frosted plane at the American Air Force Base, at Goose Bay, Labrador.  The remaining travelers had settled down and were reading or sleeping.

Leaning close to Thelma’s ear, Elaine, Lainie, Swanson, the slender, five foot two inch bass player with the Country Sweethearts group, shouted, “What are those ugly things sticking out of the water?”

“Those are icebergs,” Thelma shouted back, stretching to see past Lainie.

“I thought icebergs are white.” Lainie grumbled, brushing her dark brown bangs from her pretty oval face.

“I thought so too, but these icebergs are definitely gray.  Maybe they’re old or something.  God, I’m tired of sitting, I’ll be glad to get to Thule.”

“Me too,” Lainie agreed.  “I hope my electric bass is okay.  I brought two new sets of strings in case the cold weather breaks ‘em.  I hear there aren’t any music stores in Thule.”

“That’s right,” Thelma nodded.  “There are no music stores, no streets, no houses, no women, no children, no cats or dogs, no nothin’.  There’s a landing strip, some buildings to live in, and a ship of some sort that supplies electrical power for the base.  There is, also, lots of wind, snow, ice, blinding sunshine and three thousand lonesome horny men.  That’s quite a combination huh?”

“Where did you get all this information?” Lainie asked, smoothing her page-boy haircut behind her ears, staring at Thelma who was not thought of as a genius.

“I have my sources,” Thelma smiled mysteriously.  “I also know that as terrible as the weather is up there, men volunteer to work in Thule because the pay is so good and they can save every cent they earn, because there’s no place to spend it.  If they come back for a second tour, they can earn double the money they earned the first year.  Everybody goes north for the money, not because they like being there.  The important personnel get special training and take psychological tests, to see if they can stand the loneliness and boredom they have to deal with.  Nobody worries much about the young guys.  They just take orders.  I hear the men go to the Sunday church services because there’s nothing else to do.  That’s what I call a ‘captive audience’.”

“What do all those men do up there, Thelma?” Lainie asked, applying her pink lipstick with her gloves on.  “I know we’re going to play and sing for them, but why are they up there?”

“They’ve been building radar systems across Alaska, Canada and Greenland to detect any flying missiles sent over the North Pole from Russia, directed at the United States.  We’re practically at war with the Soviet Union you know.  It could happen any day.  Everybody along the Dew Line, our ‘Distant Early Warning System’, that’s what they call the string of radar installations.  Well, they’re watching for that little ‘blip’ on their radar screens that means a missile is heading for the U.S.  If that happens, all hell will break loose.  They say it could unleash a third world war.”

“Why is Sam sending us to be blown up?”  Lainie asked inspecting her lipstick coated lips in her round compact mirror.  “Why would he want to do that to us?   I’m getting worried.”

“Well it’s too late to worry about it now, honey, we’re almost there.”

“Hey,” Thelma shouted, nudging Lainie from her reverie, “we’re banking and we’ve lost altitude.  I think we’re here.  Can you see anything from your window?”

“I can see land, if you can call it that.  It looks like dirty snow.  I see a landing strip.”

In the cockpit of the C121 aircraft, Major Orson, the pilot yawned and spoke into his headset. “Okay”, he ordered his crew, “let’s land this crate, get a drink and catch some sleep.  Get the wheels down Bob.”

“Yes sir, landing gear down,” copilot, Captain Bob Brown answered, verifying the Major’s order.  “Landing gear down… landing gear… landing gear … Major, I have a problem.”

“What is it, Bob?”

“I can’t get the landing gear lowered.”

“Take over the controls, Bob.  Do a ‘go-around’ and maintain altitude at forty-five hundred feet.”

Copilot, Captain Bob Brown immediately increased power and pulled the heavily loaded plane back up into the cold, blue sky, while the Major perspiring nervously in his Arctic attire attempted to manipulate the landing gear control levers himself.  Taking his pilot’s seat again, the Major uttered into his headset, “We can’t land until we get these damned wheels down.  We’ll stay upstairs for awhile.”  Glancing at his anxious copilot he announced, “Bob if you can’t get the wheels down, we’ll have Dick go below and see if he can release them manually.”  The Major had to think through every detail of the possible emergency, including estimating the amount of fuel required to keep the engines powered for a normal landing, should the landing gear hold.  He’d have to burn off most of his fuel in case they had to belly-land.  If the Major lost engine power, and couldn’t keep the nose up, the plane could go into a dead stick dive that would prove disastrous!  If he attempted landing with the landing gear down and they collapsed, he could tear up the underside of the fuselage and most likely plow a deep long trench into the runway.  No way did he want to crash-land with a load of fuel.  He decided to fly long enough to burn off his fuel and reduce the danger of explosion and fire.

“How are we doing Bob?” the Major asked, checking his instrument panel as the aircraft circled above the air base.  “No luck yet?” he asked, uneasily.  “Well… we’ll have to land one way or the other.  We’ll stay in this holding vector until….  Make Jerry aware of our situation and have him get everyone buckled up.  Get him back here A.S.A.P.  Dick, you get ready to go below and see what the hell the problem is.”

Copilot, Bob Brown motioned Jerry into the head and slammed the door.  “Jerry,” he gasped, shouting above the roar of the ascending plane, “We can’t lower the fucking landing gear.  If we can’t get the wheels down.  Johnson will have to go below and try to lower them manually.  The Major wants you to get the passengers buckled up and report to the cockpit, pronto.”

“I’ll get there as soon as I can,” Jerry replied with bated breath.  “What am I going to tell the women?”

“I don’t know,” Bob shouted, racing out of the cubicle, “Tell them there’s a polar bear in the middle of the runway.  Tell them any damned thing you want.”

“I hate to lie to them,” Jerry shouted.

“If we can’t get the wheels down,” Bob yelled, as he turned, struggling back up toward the cockpit, “it won’t make any difference whether you’re lying or not, or dead!”

Being thrown forward forcibly, straining against her seat belt, Maria screamed, “What’s happening?  What’s happening?”

“I don’t know,” Shelly gasped, grabbing her seat belt, sliding from her seat.

“Sergeant, Sergeant,” Maria screamed, as the Crew Chief pulled himself along, from seat to seat, heading towards the cockpit.  “What’s the problem?”  Why are we going up again?”  Grabbing the Sergeant’s sleeve, she continued screaming, “What’s the matter?  What’s going on?”

“Don’t be alarmed, Miss Corso,” the Sergeant shouted.  “We’re waiting for a polar bear to leave the runway, so we can land.  Remain seated.  Fasten your seat belt.”  Yanking his sleeve from Maria’s death grip, Jerry continued pulling himself up the aisle.

Male passengers immediately buckled themselves into their seats and sat quietly as the silver bird shuddered upward.  The men knew gaining altitude unexpectedly meant there was a problem, if only a temporary one – they hoped.

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