The Beacon (WC 245)
by Irv Pliskin
With the outboard right engine feathered, the B-17 lumbered slowly across the North Atlantic.
The plane, tail number 7461, had left Labrador at 7 PM, and was headed to Iceland then England and combat. The ferry crew, ten young men were, ready to lay heir lives down for their country.
Just beyond the point of no return--the point at which they could no longer turn back to Labrador for safety, the right outboard engine began to sputter and cough.
The pilot caught by surprise, checked the instruments...they were going wild. He killed the engine and feathered the prop. With one engine down, things were getting iffy. The overcast was thick and solid. The water fluorescence gave no help.
The navigator had made a star fix an hour earlier, but that was before the clouds closed in and obscured the stars and just rising moon. If the navigator’s dead reckoning was off, they would soon be swimming.
They had been flying at 5000 feet, but now the cloud cover was lowering. If they went much lower, the pilots decided they might be forced to ditch. They had to climb above it, if they could. They climbed, laboriously and slowly through thick black clouds.
At 9000 feet they broke into the clear. There was the bright full moon well above the horizon.
A perfect star shot for the navigator: a brilliant beacon they could use to take them to a landing field and safety.
[Irv Pliskin is a retired advertisin agency executive. He is a veteran of WW11, and an Ex Prisoner of War of the Germans. He flew combat over Germany. He has been happily married for 59 yeas, has three children and four grandchildren. He aspires to be the Grandpa Irv of flash fiction.]