By Gerard R. Ward, Susan W. Serjeantson
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Additional resources for ...and Then the Engines Stopped: Flying in Papua New Guinea
Blue touches me on the arm and • 49 • … AND THEN THE ENGINES STOPPED points ahead. A small red and white object is coming straight at us. It flashes past on our left, propeller spinners chromed and shining, the sun a brilliant ball reflected in the perspex windscreen. The pilot, dark glasses, black moustache, white teeth grinning, looks at us, his hand held up against the window, the middle finger extended. ‘Up you too, mate,’ laughs Blue. Three weeks later, mercifully flying alone, Blue flew deep into the Gap and found it closed.
Blue leaned over and grinned wickedly. ‘Not supposed to carry more than seven passengers, mate, except for kids. No worries, though. ’ In one smooth movement he swung the Cessna around at the end of the strip and pushed on full power. About halfway down the strip Bravo Uniform Foxtrot lifted her nose towards the sky. Then, with a piercing squawk of protest from the stall warning indicator, she settled gently back to earth. ‘Jesus! Those bastards in the back must be built like brick shithouses,’ shouted Blue, seemingly treating the added weight as a challenge.
By leaning forwards against the safety harness I can look up through the perspex windscreen. The bottom of the cloud is about 10 feet away, streaming over my head. I recall the claustrophobia felt as a child when lifted up to touch the ceiling. The walls of the room come up flush against the ceiling. I feel the ceiling pressing down upon me. ‘You’ve got to get up as much speed as possible well away from it,’ bellows Blue. His cheerful optimism has stood the test of the take-off. ‘Just squeeze in the back with your mates,’ he had said to a sad-looking student who thought he was going to be left behind.