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West Coast interceptor page 8

STORY by DICK BENTHAM

We caught up and swung around behind, hustling up on the starboard side. Suddenly, we were closing much too fast. Power off. Gear down. Flaps down. Hang on! We were right on top of him.

Unexpectedly, everything suddenly went grey as both CF-100s went into the fog bank. Concentrating totally on the green navigation light on his right wing, I’d had no chance to look into our cockpit at such vital things as attitude, altitude and airspeed. The fact that we were less than 200 feet above the ground was not known. The top of the fog bank looming up as the lead aircraft descended on the glide path hadn’t been noticed.

The rate of closure seemed to make a collision in the fog a certainty. I instinctively snap-rolled into a steep right turn. A split second later, in the corner of my eye, a fuzzy runway light appeared beside the right wing tip. I rolled back level and was on the runway.

When the other pilot entered the top of the fog bank, he was startled to hear the GCA controller gasp, “Look out on the starboard side!”

He looked out, and in the glow from his green navigation light was the plan form of ’579 immediately beside him in a steep right turn. He cranked his aircraft hard left and up, came around on another GCA try, and got in. We had missed collision by a whisker.

After parking ’579 at the flight line, when my feet hit the ground my knees began to shake. This was surprising, because I didn’t think I was all that bothered. No big deal, I thought. But my knees seemed to be telling another story.

The night ended with a routine paper trail. In the L-14 aircraft log, 579’s VHF was snagged u/s. Back in the crew room, in my pilot’s flying log, along with the usual details of the exercise I added the words, VHF Failure. Fog!

A few minutes later, the 428 pilot came into the crew room and went straight to the phone in the flight commander’s office. After a short, quiet conversation with someone, he came up to us and growled, “Don’t you ever breathe a word of this to anybody. If you do, they’ll have our guts for garters. You’ll wish you’d never been born.”

I took his advice. Until now.

An Unrecognizable Genie
“Except ye owe the Fates a jest,
Be slow to jest with Them.”

Rudyard Kipling, “Poseidon’s Law”

In the late summer of 1959, when Cudgel 42 (F/Os Brian Shaw, pilot, and Gordie Davis, nav) volunteered to pose as a downed CF-100 crew in Georgia Strait for the training benefit of the Comox rescue boat, there were more than a few raised eyebrows from some of the 409 Squadron aircrew.

It was one thing to be assigned for such a duty. It was quite another thing to volunteer. The raised eyebrows had nothing to do with the dubious pleasure of being dunked in the cold water for a short period of time. They had everything to do with not tempting fate.

Fate might well take notice of such disrespect, “Aha! So you would like to pretend you are a downed crew, would you! Well, we’ll see about that! Maybe you would like to try the real thing.”

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