Secrets of the Lighthouse
All of a sudden the plane, which had been holding steady on autopilot, pitched downward. Drastically. Then it rolled. The wild and intense descent and roll threw Joe and Iola, even in their safety harnesses. Joe whacked against the unyielding frame, wrenching his arm and side as well as bouncing his hard head. He blinked his eyes and prayed he wouldn’t lose consciousness.
Grabbing the yoke, and being well-trained, he instinctively disengaged the autopilot then put all he had into regaining the balance of the plane. That way he wasn’t fighting a dangerous and unnecessary battle with the autopilot function.
It took much effort and focus, pushing aside his injuries, to level the plane. Iola, also working to stay conscious, had her neck and shoulder injured.
They both asked at the same time, “You ok?”
“Ladies first,” Joe said as he held back a groan from the strain of holding the plane steady was putting on his injuries.
“Just a little sore, I think.” Iola silently hoped that was all. Joe didn’t need to be distracted right then. “But I’ll live. How about you?”
“A little sore, as you worded it. I’ve got a hard head, you know.”
“Boy, do I!”
Iola gave a little laugh, which helped Joe more than a shot of pain medicine. He used the adrenaline to adjust the course. Starting to reach over, which usually was easily accomplished, he stopped as the movement caused pain that made him stop and gasp.
“What?” Iola asked in alarm. She pushed herself over to Joe, who was perspiring.
“Just a little…pain.” He still held on tight to the yoke. “Can’t reach…”
“I can.” Iola tapped and watched, waiting for a response to indicate it was working. They couldn’t be sure what would continue to work due to the sabotage.
Working together, they tried to keep a steady course and improvise without the use of helpful gadgets that helped pilots fly safely. Little things such as letting them know where they were. The avionics suite was a dream of ease to use and up-to-date tech…as long as it worked.
“Well, I know we passed Niagara Falls a while ago,” Joe said. “Does that count as going over Niagara Falls?”
“Sure.” Iola calculated the speed they’d been going and the direction, while keeping in mind the wind. Variables have a tendency to vary. Then there was the sudden descent which threw them off course. She gave her estimate and Joe agreed that matched his calculations as well.
“I have an idea.” Iola had been observing Joe and his pained movements. Very carefully she moved so that she could reach the panels and controls. That brought her in very close proximity.
“I like this idea.” She grinned, happy she was getting his mind off of his pain. She did want to remind him not to get too distracted. “Focus on flying.”
“Cause we’ve got a plane to land safely, mister. And we still don’t know exactly where we are. And where we can land safely.”
Still miles away, in the control tower at the airport they hoped to land at, there were a few new visitors arriving. Having driven there as soon as they got word, Laura Hardy, along with Iola’s brother, Chet, and the siblings’ mother and father, Mr. and Mrs. Morton, were shown in. As the Hardys in the room greeted each other and Callie, Sam Goldberg told the newly arrived family members that there still hadn’t been any communication as of yet with Joe and Iola.
As he listened to quiet conversation around him, Frank’s eyes stayed focused on the sky. He knew it wasn’t just wishful thinking that the thick fog had started to dissipate slightly, making things a little clearer.
“I wish I’d had a chance to get information from that jerk,” spoke usually very easygoing Chet. Right now, though, his sister, along with one of his best friends, a brother, was in danger and he felt a strong need for action.
“He might not have talked.” Frank told him. “Joe and Iola are going to have to land that plane on a prayer.”
Chet nodded. Was Iola piloting at the moment? He, as a pilot himself, recognized just how good Iola was at flying. Joe’d flown very successfully in dangerous situations before. Skilled pilots could only do so much with a sabotaged plane, though.
“This is definitely guesstimating.” Joe looked again where the visual guides would usually be displayed. Blank screens stared at him without a care.
“Visibility is decreasing. I don’t need anything to point that fact out.” Iola watched as the clouds ahead refused to drift even slowly apart.
“We’re really going to need some visuals.” Joe tried again to get a response from the panel in front of him and Iola. All the displays continued to ignore his coaxing. They were essentially flying blind in a sabotaged plane. That situational problem didn’t require being displayed in hi-res graphics, it was beyond obvious. “Soon, I hope.”
Joe and Iola both knew how to land a plane without relying solely on digital outputs from the system. Not only that, but with the plane responding erratically at times, that added some potentially very dangerous unknown quotients to the situation. They just had to be ready for anything at any time. Easy.
“I just saw some light to the right!” Iola exclaimed.
“No, don’t think so.”
They both tried to see what it was and watched in that general direction.
“Hey, I saw it, too!” Joe tried to determine what it was. It was piercing through the fog, but they weren’t at the airport yet…it had to be…”A lighthouse!”
“Isn’t it beautiful!?!” Iola watched as the flash got brighter again. The bright beam cut through the dark. “Long live lighthouses!”
“I second that!” Joe reached somewhat painfully for a paper map and looked at it. “Does your map app show a closeup of this area?” His finger indicated the part he was referring to.
“Yep.” Iola was thankful for her offline map app, since data service obviously wasn’t working right then. Besides, an app available without internet meant not only more freedom, but also not using up expensive data. Especially if it refreshed or updated a lot, draining not only data, but battery, too.
She tapped and brought up the map on her tablet and they compared the details. “Must be right here. We need to head past it, keeping the light on this side since we must be over the water at the moment, do you think?”
“100% agree.” They were factoring in all of the little details they had observed and made a point to remember. The reliability of the compromised avionics suite didn’t provide a whole lot of comfort from the parts that still appeared to be working. “Okay, getting our bearings, we are about here.”
Joe and Iola looked at the maps while maintaining focus on their course.
“Pray the rudder responds,” Joe muttered. It took constant persistence with the yoke and pedals. Between the two of them, they got it back on course, headed toward Bayport.
“I’m so thankful for that lighthouse being there. We sure needed it right then and right there.”
Joe nodded. “Yeah, instead of flying out far over the ocean, running out of gas, and gliding right into the ocean, that lighthouse just saved our lives.”
At the control tower in Bayport, tense nerves waited as silent prayers continued to be sent. Sam Goldberg, watching the radar closely, immediately began trying to reach the plane that had just shown up in their sector. He’d identified it as the one Joe and Iola were flying. Everyone in the room listened as he tried again to contact them.
This went on for several minutes, as each wondered what was going on with the plane. Praying that Joe and Iola were alright.
“Mayday, mayday!” Joe’s voice suddenly came through in the room with loved ones focused between the cloudy sky outside the huge glass sections and the radar display inside. Joe repeated the distress signal, their plane identification and requesting help. Sam responded appropriately according to radio protocol and briefly learned what they were dealing with. He gave Joe the details he needed.
“Affirmative, over,” Joe said.
“Cleared for landing, over.”
Joe and Iola’s family and friends, their hearts filled with hope, joy, and prayer, were intently focused on Joe’s brief words as per radio protocol.
Before they had reached Bayport, Joe had hoped there wouldn’t be a delay due to air traffic. Even without a digital output to show him the area, he still hoped for the whole collision-avoidance thing. Knowing that it was clear made a big difference.
Laura stood bravely next to her husband as they gave each other strength. Her fear was great, but her faith was greater.
Those in the tower spotted the plane the second it was clear enough to do so. Then they heard a noise over the radio and the sound of the engine disappeared.
“No engine,” Joe stated. “Comin’ in on a wing and a prayer. Over.”
Iola was helping with communications with the tower and the effort of keeping the plane on course. When the engine quit, she looked back at Joe.
“Let’s turn around and head back.” Her dimples flashed with her quick smile and she turned back around.
Joe chuckled. “Time to glide in.”
The fog had gotten some better and they could just barely see the runway ahead, or portions of it. Everything was lit up to help Joe and Iola in the sabotaged plane. Keeping the plane steady, working together, each doing what they needed to do, they got closer and closer to the landing.
The Beechcraft began the descent, on course with the runway. The go ahead lights beamed their way through the slowly dissipating fog. Even though the radio had started working again, most of the avionics suite still weren’t functioning. The landing gear had lowered successfully although Joe and Iola weren’t sure it would, not knowing what all had been sabotaged. Things that usually worked perfectly wouldn’t if they’d been purposely damaged. Joe had already figured that someone at the airport they’d taken off from had to have at least allowed access to their plane for it to be sabotaged like it was. Joe would find out later the man came forward and confessed. The guard finally fighting his fear and standing up resulted in him helping stop more of the criminal activity.
Since Joe and Iola had been gliding before, the flight itself wasn’t scary, but concern from the weather conditions, and most of all, what else might be in store for the plane, caused the biggest fear. That included those in the plane and those watching.
They had to descend at the right time and hope that they could keep it from accelerating at the wrong angle. The need to compensate for wind gusts and holding it steady added to the pressure Joe felt with his injuries. Iola’s help was priceless to him.
“Here we go.” Joe and Iola held on as the wheels touched and bounced on the runway. They were ready for them on the ground. Everyone doing their part for safety.
In the plane, as soon as it had stopped, Joe looked at Iola and grinned. “Glad we survived that.”
The reunion with family and friends had much hugs and continual prayers of thanks being sent to the Creator.
“Well, little brother, you were worried about missing out on the excitement of capturing Colbert, did that sabotaged plane and no engine landing make up for it?” Frank asked with a smile and raised eyebrow.
“Yeah. I guess so.” Joe grinned back. He gave his brother another hug, thankful he was safe and sound as well. “Good thing that I know more about flying than would fit on a Post-It Note.”
Frank hugged him back. “Well, we already knew that. Anyone who knows you would know that.”
Joe and Iola told everyone about the lighthouse and the critical part it played in helping them.
“I’ve always appreciated the important work of a lighthouse, yet somehow after this, even more so,” Joe stated.
Now the feeling of case closed could be felt.
They didn’t yet know that another lighthouse would soon play an important part in an upcoming mystery.