This week I am back to my writing gig trying to balance work, home life, and being an author. I’ve just sent in another round of edits to my publisher, The Wild Rose Press. I think we may be getting closer to a release date.
My wonderful editor, Ally Robertson insisted I delete a few scenes that detracted from the main story. I really fought against that at first – those scenes were my babies! But, she was right.
In Secrets of Sandhilll Island a hurricane blows in just in time to cause more than its share of havoc. I wrote a couple of chapters about the Hurricane Hunters out of Keesler AFB in the Gulf of Mexico. I’d love to show them to you since they didn’t make it into the book. After all, hurricane season is just around the corner.
The WC-130J Hercules and her crew of five including Major Sandy Miller, were flying near the edge of Cuba and the Florida Keys watching the changing weather circling and moving west-northwest. She was the Aerial Reconnaissance Weather Officer on board this mission and something about this storm didn’t look right. It originally appeared to be heading for New Orleans and the National Weather Service had been contacted to make sure New Orleans was aware of the impending danger. No one needed another Hurricane Katrina disaster. But, the winds and lightening were the biggest things about this storm, not the flooding rains like Katrina. Every storm had a signature; you just needed to know how to read it.
“We need to get inside her,” Major Miller said checking and rechecking her instruments and logging them into her laptop. She then emailed the files and her findings back to the base. “The barometric pressure is even more unstable than normal. It goes up and then down and I think if it could go sideways, it would.”
“I really don’t think this thing is headed for New Orleans.” Sandy looked at her instruments again. “If I’m right, we need to let Corpus know about this. I think it will make landfall around Corpus Christi, not New Orleans. I’m emailing the Weather Detachment at Keesler as well as the National Hurricane Center. I don’t want anyone caught off guard. The Corpus area is my home and it may not be my place to decide these things, but someone needs to look at this data again.”
The plane began a long lazy circle back the way it came heading directly into the swirling monster. The sky was an eerie red as the sun began to set and the storm clouds grew darker. Up ahead the lightning flashed quickly and Sandy knew that the light show was just beginning.
“It’s gonna’ get bumpy,” the pilot said just before the lightning strike hit the nose of the aircraft. The whole plane shuddered and engines roared – then went deathly still. “Find something to hold on to!” the pilot shouted. Then warning lights went off coloring the ever darkening cockpit.
“Four Engine Rollback!” shouted the captain and the crew knew they had lost all four engines and the C-130 was turning into a fifty-ton glider.
Secured in her seat and holding tightly to her laptop, Sandy could see the faces of her children in her mind. She had to keep a clear head she told herself. The kids were fine. No matter what her outcome, the kids would be fine.
Alarms sounded warnings that the instruments were not working correctly. Then they went dark and silent. Major Miller looked out the window at the angry ocean.
The flight engineer immediately took action switching the aircraft propellers to mechanical governing and took charge of the temperature controls of the aircraft. He didn’t want the fuel to overheat and reach the engines. He would manipulate the temperature of the fuel himself. He knew that this was not the first time a C-130 experienced such a catastrophe and he believed he could get them all home safely.
Within seconds, three of the four engines fluttered back to life and there was a communal sigh of relief. They could get to dry land on three engines as long as they weren’t overcome by the storm – and the storm was right behind them. So much for data gathering on this mission, now they concentrated on landing the huge flying hunk of metal. All the airports would be shutting down with the bad weather. They would either be packed with travelers or already deserted. Key West Naval Air Station was the closest and had a runway long enough to handle the C-130. At least the radio worked and they could call in a Mayday to the base to clear a spot to land.
The landing runway at Keesler AFB was 7630 feet long and the one at Key West was 10,000 feet. The pilots and engineer planned a long glide after touchdown. The mechanical engineer knew that if he used the auxiliary pump to slow the plane down after landing it could cause the fuel to overheat and a flame out of the engines could result in a fire onboard. After all they had been through they didn’t need to set the plane on fire after landing it. It seemed like a long way to Key West over a turbulent sea.
Sandy hugged her laptop to her as they began the descent to land. Her data was important to her and she was determined to keep it safe.
Slowly descending the glide path to land on the runway at Key West, Sandy tensed. She completely trusted the pilots and engineer, but still she knew her life was in someone else’s hands. She wasn’t in charge, and she didn’t like leaving her fate up to someone else. The plane lightly touched the tarmac and began a slow-down that took much too long to make Sandy comfortable. She would breathe again as soon as they were stopped.
Eventually the plane rolled to a stop. A roar of celebration echoed in the giant plane congratulating the engineer and pilots for a job well done. A job that saved five lives that day.
The doors opened and a gust of warm moist sea air blew in as Sandy and the other occupants of the plane descended. A tug towed the big plane around and back to the hangar where the mechanics could survey the damage and begin repairs.
The winds whipped and torrents of rain began to fall as the crew climbed in the back of the pickup sent to take them to the hangar and eventually shelter for the night. They were on the ground and safe, but the hurricane loomed in the distance. She hoped her emailed data made it to the mainland in time.
What do you think? Should the scene have stayed?