Saving The Daisy

PrintPrintEmailEmail

The C-46 continued right on in and hit about 50 feet in front of the now-stationary Lancaster. The pilot made what we jokingly called an ATC three-point—that is, bang-boom-bam—left wheel, right wheel, tail wheel. I couldn’t believe a C-46 could hit the ground so hard and not break up. He bounced once, 4 or 5 feet, and then rolled down the runway as if nothing had happened.

Following my warning, the radio was strangely silent; no one in the tower, the Lancaster, or the C-46 said a word. I had the feeling I was going to catch it for butting in. Then the tower said, “Charlie 46, clear the runway to the right at the next taxi strip.” Which he did, nice as you please, on only one engine. The tower then said, “Aircraft in number one, you may go when ready.” Mountbatten’s pilot poured the coal on that big Lancaster and got it airborne, wheels up, and headed back to India in seconds. I’ll bet he’d had a bellyful of us Yanks that day.

The tower then said, “Army one, two, three, you’re cleared to number one takeoff.” I gave my “wilco,” popped the brakes off, pulled into position, did my run-up, and took off for Chengkung.

I never heard another word about the incident, which suited me fine. I doubt whether the Supreme Allied Commander in Southeast Asia ever knew how close he had come to his last airplane ride. I’ve often wondered how his pilot explained that bump they got in Kunming. If any of his crew are still alive, I’ll bet a tenspot of my own money they remember it as clearly as I do.

Readers are invited to submit their own personal “brushes with history,” for which our regular rates will be paid on publication. Unfortunately, we can not promise to correspond about or return submissions.