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The Lessons Continue

Posted on Thursday 15 June 2017 @ 20:19 by Civilian Mackenzie Tan & Commander Melody Jones

Mission: The Perez Nebula
Location: Holodeck 1


Melody stood outside the door of holodeck 1, waiting for her star pupil. She had, with some regret had to postpone their last lesson on account of being in Save'ena's body. Now the they were both back where they should be, things could get back to normal..... Well as normal as you get on board a star ship.

... Kenzie had been looking forward to her next lesson for almost a week. She had read and re-read all the information Melody had given her, but had made sure to follow the advice and not get 'bogged down' as her Daddy had said, with things she could learn at her leisure. After breakfast she had done her homework then got dressed before leaving her quarters to head for the holodeck ...

Melody smiled "Good morning Mackenzie. Today we're going rather old school. Flying modern shuttles or Starships has become so easy, what with computer assistance, that at times we forget basic flying principals such as thrust, drag and gravity. I know they don't play as big a part out in deep space in a shuttle or star ship, but they are important never the less."

... "Hello Melody." Kenzie said, giving her friend a hug, But we 'are' in space though. But I understand the need to learn all sorts of flying as we might be on a planet one day and need to get around." she said as Melody took her hand:

Entering the holodeck, Melody pointed to an ancient earth aircraft that sat at the end of a long, tarmac runway. "That is what we are flying today. It's a Cessna 172 light aeroplane called a 'Skyhawk'. It was used on earth around the 20th century. It uses a propeller to generate speed which intern creates airflow over the wings. The wings are designed so that air flowing over the top of the wing is travelling faster than the air underneath it which generates lift to get you off the ground. Any questions so far?"

... That 'actually' FLIES !" she said, running up to what she perceived as some ancient relic. To her it looked like something that should really stay on the ground, but despite her eyeing the aircraft with scepticism she was more than willing to have a go at the thing, "So the propeller turns and pushes air, a lot of it I think, backwards, making the aeroplane move forward, fast enough so it comes up off the ground. What happens if the propeller stops ?" she asked, eyebrows raised. Despite her young age, Mackenzie had long had an interest in flying, and had studied numerous forms, even something called a 'glider' though why anyone in their right mind would want to get into on was beyond her.

Melody smiled "Yes it flies. As for the propeller stopping....... Well, that depends on the pilot. If they are good they should be able to glide to a landing somewhere. If not, you'll probably drop like a stone."

"Can we get in ?" she asked excitedly, then eyed the craft wondering just how she would manage to ...

"Of course, how else are you going to fly it? Come on." Melody led the way over to the aircraft and opened the door for Mackenzie to hop in. She then went round and got in the other side.

"Right then, you may have noticed that there are two sets of controls so either of us can fly the plane." She then talked Mackenzie through how the yoke, rudder pedals and various other controls worked.

"Now then, I'll do the first take off and landing so you can see and feel what's its like. I've only done this a few times myself. The engine uses a refined petroleum product to create power. Not the most efficient method, granted."

Melody stated the engine, released the brakes and applied the throttle.

... As the engine started, Mackenzie was forced to stifle a scream of delight and sudden excitement. She could 'feel' the aircraft vibrating through her bottom and put her hands either side of her legs on the seat to experience it further. She tentatively placer her feet on the adapted rudder pedals as the Cessna moved forward turning slowly to port as it headed for the end of what Kenzie knew was the runway, where these things actually took off, and presumably landed safely, she thought wryly.

As the throttle was applied the vibration through her body, albeit subtle now, was still ever-present, as the aircraft turned to line up with the long stretch of tarmacadam, or was it concrete, Kenzie pondered, but all speculation regarding the runways' composition shot from her mind as Melody opened up the throttle and the Cessna began to roll ... Slowly at first, but rapidly building speed, so fast she could actually 'hear' the wind rushing past !

Without warning, the nose and propeller lifted and the runway vanished from sight, the canopy being filled with a clear and almost cloudless blue sky ... She looked to her left and could see the wing, amazed that something so flimsy-looking was holding them in the air. She watched as the plane banked to the left, making a lazy turn so she could see the runway and the Aerodrome, she was pretty sure that was what they were called but made a mental note to check for terminology, she wanted to get everything right to impress her friend and instructor.

"Wowwww." she whispered ...

Melody brought the aircraft parallel with the runway, then as it disappeared over their left shoulders, she turned the plane left again back facing the end of the runway and started to descend.

Melody brought the plane back down to the found with a gentle bump and applied the brakes. When they had stopped she turned to Mackenzie. "Your tune now. Just the same again please."

... Mackenzie tentatively placed her hands on the control wheel, known as a yoke then looked out at the expanse of runway, she glanced at Melody who nodded encouragingly ... She reached over with her right hand and took hold of the throttle control, she pushed it forward but too quickly and the nose of the Cessna lifted a fraction then settled, she pulled it back then tried again, this time more slowly. The aircraft began to roll ans she pushed the throttle further in before taking hold of the yoke with both hands. She watched the air speed indicator like before, watching the needle climb through forty then fifty knots.

"Do I pull back like you did now ?" she asked.

Melody was watching the instrument panel "Wait until we're at seventy knots."

"OK so at seventy 'knots' on that one." Kenzie replied, pointing at what she had decided was the speed indicator, ".... and a 'knot' is a rate of speed, like warp, but a 'LOT' slower." she said, silently grateful that Melody was keeping her hands close to her own wheel, just in case, but as she pulled back and the nose again came off the ground she allowed it to do so and the Cessna lifted off. Melody gently pushed forward to reduce the climb rate but didn't comment or touch the controls further they climbed through one thousand feet. Kenzie put pressure on her left foot, feeling the other pedal raise in response and the plane began a very slow turn, more a slide really, to the left. Over the next ten minutes Kenzie made tiny inputs on the controls, following Melody's instructions, learning how to use the yoke and rudder pedals in unison to make the Cessna turn, climb, or begin a slow dive ... She realised suddenly that she couldn't see the Aerodrome any more but again was reassured it wasn't a problem.

She was beginning to relax now, not so much that her full attention wasn't on the task at hand, but enough so she could look at the instrument panel for more than a fraction of a second before her eyes flicked back to the canopy. She had learned what several of the dials were now, including the altitude, air speed, one that showed the plane was level, and a heading indicator, she knew now that one showed how fast the plane was going up or down.

"We don't seen to be going that fast." she said, eyeing the ground below, yes she was aware that at their height it would look like they were almost walking and closer to the ground it would seem a lot faster, but she was still surprised that the 'wings' and the propeller, whirling around in front of them were all that were keeping them in the air, no thrusters or anti-gravity here, this was flying, and she realised that she absolutely loved it !

"We're not going back down yet are we ?" Melody shook her head smiling, "Do you think we'll be coming here again ?" she asked, trying and likely completely failing, to keep the excitement from her voice ...

"Well" Melody thought for a moment. "I would like you to have a go at landing. Line up with the runway and land as normal. We'll do a TOGA landing which means take off and go around. Basically, as soon as your wheels hit the runway, apply full power again. Then take off as normal ok? The we can have a look at some of the sights around here and you can get some more experience."

... "Hmm, OK we can try that." Kenzie said, turning to line up on the runway. Melody gave her running instructions as she began to bring the Cessna in, then at one hundred feet she stopped talking, allowing her pupil to concentrate.

Mackenzie watched as the ground got closer and closer until it seemed to be whizzing past the canopy at an alarming rate. At this point it was all down to proverbial 'hand eye' coordination as she pulled back on the yoke to lift the nose slightly, ensuring that the rear wheels made contact first. Melody informed her they were at roughly thirty feet ... Kenzie pulled back on the throttle knob, lowering the rate of rotation of the propeller, but not too much, she didn't want to suddenly drop out of the sky, holo-aircraft or not ! ... She could see the end of the two thousand meter runway getting closer and wondered if she had taken too much time, but Melody's hands were still not in contact with her control so she thought she still had time.

Pushing forward on the yoke the tiniest fraction the aircraft began a lazy fall, she heard and felt the wheels touch the ground, a little too heavily and the aircraft shook in complaint, the left then right wing dipping dangerously close to the very hard ground beneath, but Mackenzie steadied the erratic oscillations then pushed the throttle forward again, as the propeller spun faster, pulling the small plane behind, she pulled on the column raising the nose and once again climbing away from the ground ... She didn't want to look at Melody, who was still silently watching, but she knew she had to say something:

"I'm sorry Melody, I got that completely wrong." she began, more annoyed with herself than anything else, but remembered what her Mummy and Daddy had said since she began this training: 'You will not get everything first time, maybe not the second, you will need to learn as you go, OK' and she felt a little bit better as she waited for Melody's comments ....

"Mackenzie, Don't worry about it. For a first attempt you did very well. That's why we practice on the holodeck. This type of flying is difficult to master. She looked at her for a moment. "Sometimes we learn more from failure than an easy victory. Do you want to have another go?"

... Mackenzie thought about it and nodded. She looked out to her left and began a slow turn, lining up with the runway she began the landing procedure again, this time she was almost mumbling to herself, almost as if giving herself running instructions as she approached. Already two thirds along the runway she waited as the Cessna dropped towards the ground, then she applied full throttle and climbed away ... Both of them were aware that she had failed to touch down and she wasn't going to make any excuses. Melody seemed to appreciate this and remained silent as Kenzie climbed to five hundred feet before coming around again.

Her lips tightened as she concentrated, her eyes flicking from the horizon to the runway ahead, and to her instruments ... One hundred feet and gliding towards the ground, she looked at the runway then the horizon, fifty feet, she reduced power slightly, pulling back on the yoke a fraction to allow more lift. Ten feet, six, two, touchdown. She immediately applied more throttle and lifted the nose, climbing steadily to one thousand feet. She gave a six year old's sigh of relief, turning the Cessna back towards the aerodrome and smiled.

"I think that second go was just a practice." Kenzie said, more to herself than Melody, "I'd like one more try if we have the time." Melody nodded and sat back, her hands no longer poised over the controls, but ready should anything unforeseen happen.

This time she brought the Cessna in, hearing the screech of rubber against the surface of the runway, the throttle was already fully open and the aircraft again climbed into the clear midday sunshine ...

"See, you're getting the hang of it." Melody said. "Right then shall we have a bit of an explore before we finish for today? There's another airfield about 30 minutes south of here, shall we land there ?"

... Kenzie was about to reply when a voice spoke, almost making her jump out of her seat. Melody handed her a pair of headphones:

"Cessna Mike Eight Eight Four .. Trident Tower .. You are approaching Trident Airspace .. Do you require a landing heading ?" she looked at Melody who nodded.

"Yes .. Erm .. Trident ? .. We need a heading."

"Turn north to two seven zero .. Begin approach behind Speedbird One Six Four."

"Okeyyy ...."
Mackenzie said, her eyes going to the altimeter then to the heading indicator, turning the yoke to the left and applying slight pressure on her left rudder peddle until they were heading in the right direction. She was about to ask what a 'Speedbird One Six Four' was when she saw it ahead. Her eyes widened, the aircraft ahead was enormous in comparison to the Cessna, she was almost awestruck, or at least, as 'awestruck' as a six year old could get. They were approximately two kilometers behind and slightly below the gleaming white aircraft, the wingspan alone was striking and she could see what appeared to be four propulsion pods, two below each wing, but no propellers on this behemoth of the sky, this was moving by other means. She pondered the idea of impulse, but that wouldn't fit with what Melody was trying to teach her she thought, so what is it she wondered ?

"Look Melody 'LOOK' ..." she said, unable to keep the excitement out of her voice, "Isn't it beautiful .... It's 'SOOOO' big ! ... We have to follow that right ?" she asked, her gaze returning to the Aircraft, apparently a Boeing 747 ...

"Impressive isn't it? Maybe next time, you can have a go in one of those Now, that plane uses a jet turbine, not a propeller. As a result it can fly higher and faster. Make sure to keep our distance, those engines can put out some powerful turbulence.

..." Jet turbine. I saw one of those in a book once, they use erm, fuel that actually burns to make it work. That's very dangerous I think." Kenzie said ...

The Boeing in front of them landed. "Ok" Melody said "It's our turn."

... Again she reduced the rotation of the propeller, allowing the Cessna to begin a gentle glide towards the ground. The aircraft suddenly yawed to the left which Kenzie quickly rectified. 'That must be the turbulence' she thought as the start of the runway passed below them. She reduced speed a little more, lifting the nose a degree and prepared to land ... She glanced up at the far end of the runway where the Boeing was turning off towards the terminal. The main wheels touched the ground and Kenzie lowered the nose to allow the third wheel to touch. Once all three were down she guided the Cessna along the center line as speed reduced. As the turnoff approached she pushed gently on both peddles, now used to apply brakes, then turned off. She opened up the throttle a little so the Cessna moved along at a steady speed towards the terminal building. Melody pointed to a gap in the line of light aircraft and Mackenzie turned in, applying the brake, then she closed the throttle completely, before setting the park break. Without waiting she reached forward and pressed the red button used to cut fuel to the engine. The plane fell silent ...

"Very nice landing Mackenzie. See, I told you you'd get the hang of it."

Melody got out of her door and walked round the front of the plane to let her student out.

"I'm afraid that all we've got time for today." Then rising her voice "Computer. End program."

... That was really good, a little frightening that people did that every day, especially those large ones, I suppose that's how people got about, or went on holiday before we had space travel. Can't wait to tell everyone about the Cessna."

They stepped into the corridor and Kenzie stood on her tip-toes to kiss Melody bye, then she headed back to her quarters, she ran most of the way, excited to tell her parents about her adventure ...


Commander Melody Jones
Executive Officer
USS Merlin

Civilian Mackenzie Tan


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