...from Chapter 15...
"My eyes were riveted on the fire in the port outer engine. I had never had to put out a fire before. Would the procedure work? Would the aircraft blow up before we had time to jump? From the hit our port wing was rolled up like a carpet. I was sure I could never get the aircraft back under reasonably good control. The control column was turned fully, together with full right rudder. I applied full aileron and rudder trim, yet we were making steep turns to the left. It would be a miracle if I could keep it airborne for another few minutes.
In attempting to put out the fire, I feathered the port outer engine and told the Cradle Crew, "Put on parachutes."
Surprisingly, there was little panic. The pilot and the tail gunner in a Halifax wear seat parachutes; the balance of the crew wear harnesses, and the parachute unit is stored in it separately. At the command, "Put on your parachutes" the parachute is removed from where it has been stored and attached to the clips on the chest harness. It would be too awkward to wear the parachute while performing assignments. Everyone proceeded with his role in the abandonment procedure. The responses were magnificent. Early in the war the command had been "Prepare to abandon aircraft." This was changed to "Put on parachutes." There had been instances where the pilot had given the command "Prepare to abandon aircraft" and due to faulty intercom equipment one or more of the crew had only heard "abandon aircraft." The pilot would subsequently get the aircraft under control only to find one ore more of his crew had jumped. The newer command seemed to correct the situation.
At the command to put on parachutes, Jim (navigator) removed the trap door after closing up his navigation table, jettisoned the door latch, and sat on the flor with his feet sticking out of the hatch opening, awaiting my further command. He later recounted "I was still plugged in and had my helmet on when the skipper said "Jump, Jump!" Off came the helmet and away I went."
Jim was followed by Wat, Atky, Brock, and the Doug Grey. Curly saw what he thought was a mark on the Perspex glass. The next moment he was staring at three ME-262's ----------
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Copyright © 1999 Kenneth K. Blyth