The Cannibal Queen

The Cannibal Queen by Stephen Coonts Read Free Book Online

Book: The Cannibal Queen by Stephen Coonts Read Free Book Online
Authors: Stephen Coonts
Tags: Retail
the heck, Dave’s still asleep; we’ve still got half a tank of gas; Monroe, Louisiana, is only 50 miles away. New course 135. Onward. Through the goo. Visibility is getting worse, but it’s still way above legal minimums and Monroe approach can give me a steer if necessary. If the radio really works. Better find out.
    The Monroe Automatic Terminal Information Service (ATIS) broadcast is garbled at first but it clears as I fly along. I get the altimeter setting and wind, 210 at five knots. I can hack it. Onward.
    Monroe Approach is also garbled. They answer me but I can’t understand them—too low and too far out. I tell them I will call back when I’m closer.
    I fly on with David still asleep. Maybe he’s sick. Never heard of a kid sleeping like that in an open cockpit.
    Heading 135. That’s the heading on the chart for the Victor airway from El Dorado to Monroe, so literally tens of thousands of people have successfully reached Monroe, Louisiana, from El Dorado, Arkansas, by flying that course. I will be the first that fails to do so. The weather is really getting gooey and this big lake or reservoir—Bayou D’Arbonne—remains hidden from my sight. I finally get Approach and they give me a discrete IFF squawk and cheerfully tell me to report the field in sight. Roger that.
    Where is that dang lake? We’re talking square miles here, folks, not acres. This thing is too big to miss. The problem is that I am used to flying out west, where the visibility is 90 miles plus. You can see things in Colorado. And I am used to flying a Cessna T-210 cross-country at a ground speed of three nautical miles per minute. I am making less than half that. Ninety-three statute miles per hour indicated is about 82 knots—nautical miles per hour—a little more when converted to true airspeed, so I am covering just a smidgen more than one and a quarter nautical miles every minute. I need to learn patience, which God knows was never my long suit. I will hop from foot to foot at the Pearly Gate waiting for St. Peter to check the list.
    I could ask Approach for a steer.
    Naw. I’ll wait. More minutes tick by.
    I fidget in the cockpit and listen to Approach talk to an airliner climbing out of Monroe. Some severe weather to the south of town, he says.
    There! Way over on the right, isn’t that water? Yep. Well, I’m way left of course. I alter heading twenty degrees right.
    How did I get this far left? Wind?
    We fly for a while and the lake becomes distinct in the haze. Near the south end I come back to a course of 135. I watch the clock. Seven minutes later Approach informs me that the field is at my 12 o’clock and ten miles. I ease the nose left and peer into the murk. Nothing.
    Keep flying. David stirs, then sags back. Boy, that kid can sleep.
    Now Approach gives me a vector, 090 for traffic.
    The sensation is like flying in an inverted bowl. Only a circle of land and brown water is visible below me, and the airport and town are not within the circle.
    New vector 080. Two more minutes pass. I am watching the clock carefully now.
    “Stearman Seven Zero Zero, come right to One Eight Zero.” I swing the plane. “The airport is at your twelve o’clock, four miles.”
    I look. Nothing. Is the visibility really this bad? Maybe … yes, that’s the end of a runway. Okay, there it is. “Got it in sight,” I announce on the radio. Visibility is down to about 3 miles.
    “Squawk VFR and contact the tower,” the controller tells me.
    As I drift down toward runway 18, David wakes up and sits erect in the cockpit. I flip on the intercom. “We’re here.”
    “Umm.”
    A large black cloud sits just southeast of the field. That is a thunderstorm if I’ve ever seen one. The runway and mat are wet as we taxi in and shut down.
    Later I look at the chart and try to figure out why I had so much trouble finding Bayou D’Arbonne. Ah ha, the airway goes almost over the El Dorado downtown airport and I turned to the 135 heading when I was

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