Mette Grøtteland was feeling an amazing oneness with the sky as she sliced a clinical pathway through the air, guiding the Northrop F-5E jet-fighter betwixt the clouds and the heavens. She gracefully carried out another serene banking manoeuvre, and then headed the jet towards the north and its destination.
“Don’t forget we need to do a quick turnaround at Bodø.” Jorek’s irritating voice coming through her earpiece broke the spell.
“Roger that, Jorek.”
Mette rechecked their course for Bodø – and, for now, that tiny morsel of conversation was all they had. It was obvious that Jorek was miffed at being paired with ‘Jet-Mette’; but, as he had failed to form a trusting partnership with any of the male pilots, Mette was the last option for him – ‘you’d think he could man-up and not be such a schmo’ thought Mette.
Mette loved the flight to Bodø; the land this far north had always held her heart in its pine woodlands, mirrored lakes, and myriad, rambling fjords.
She had grown up within hiking distance of the Saltfjellet–Svartisen National Park and her Vegan lifestyle of being as one with Nature was not what most people would expect of the country’s newest, and youngest, fighter pilot.
In fact, Mette was a trail-blazer in her outlook upon life; her fitness regime, along with her principled beliefs, caused many to sneer at her ethos for living, though secretly many of those sneering were just jealous of her talent and dedication.
Then, breaking the smoothness of the flight, and from out of nowhere, the Northrop coughed nonchalantly, causing Mette to scan the gauges and seek for any problems. All seemed well; and, for a further minute or so, nothing else occurred; but Mette eased the Northrop’s speed and altitude just in case – she knew well to cover any eventualities.
“Belt up in the back!” was Mette’s smiling communication to Jorek – he couldn’t see her smile, he wouldn’t have appreciated it, anyway.
A series of lights then commenced a little disco-display before her. ‘Not good.’ surmised Mette. She radioed ahead to Bodø:
“Bodø. This is Jay-Emm-Two-Zero.” Her identifier was the initials from her nickname ‘Jet-Mette and her age on becoming a pilot; and, as they say, some Norwegian jokes are funny.
“We are on course to you, six, seven, zero, eight, North; four, ten, nine, six, East. We are experiencing electronics malfunction. We have reduced height and speed. We may need to bring Jay-Emm-Two-Zero to Emergency Landing Procedure. Repeat: we may need to bring Jay-Emm-Two-Zero to Emergency Landing Procedure. Please track our signal. Over.”
Bodø replied straight back to Mette, they repeated the location, and stated their readiness to assist in getting plane and pilots back safely.
Mette, in the meantime had been scanning for a certain clearing that she knew from her hiking in the Saltfjellet–Svartisen National Park – an orienteering exercise that may now be of far more use than she had guessed at the time.
“We may need to put her down.” Mette gave Jorek a little heads-up on the probability of terminal engine problems.
“Can’t we just eject?” Jorek was always the first to sacrifice an aircraft; he may have had lots of experience, but he had no loyalty at all to the machines that kept him in the air.
“You can, if you want to, Jorek; I’d like to get this old tub down safely.” she paused for a few seconds, “It’s make your mind up time. You staying for the landing, or are you gonna float down on your lonesome?”
Jorek considered his options: if he stayed and Mette landed safely then he could share in the small glory; if he ejected then he would definitely live to jet-fight another day. However, if the landing went belly-up then he might just need scraping off the ground; and, anyway, it wasn’t for definite that the Northrop was going to give up the ghost, was it?
“I’ll stay here for the moment; can we not make it to Bodø?” he queried.
Mette spared a few more seconds for his question – while she scanned the terrain for a make-do runway.
“I’d say that this trip is about to terminate in the National Park – I just hope it’s not the bears in the wood that come to our rescue.” Mette switched the landing gear down. She knew that there were some straight tracks in a few places around the park; but, they weren’t usually that wide. The plane would have to try off-roading as an alternative career. Now where was that path?
Mette saw it. “Right. I can see a route down that we can use.”
Jorek had gone into silent mode; he may have been praying; but, apart from that, he was certainly no use in a crisis.
At twenty, Mette was already an experienced pilot; but, simulated emergency landings were not the real thing. Now was the time to put all that theory into practice.
Sure and steady was Mette’s plan. Get it right first time and there would be as little fuss as possible before they awaited the Helicopter Recovery Team.
The landing was as near perfect as you can get when the runway has an assault course set up on it. Dodging rocks and branches, as well as could be, brought Mette, Jorek, and one tired jet-fighter to a gradual stop.
Mette closed down the fluttering engine. Flipped open the cockpit and sprang out for a warm down.
’Fitness of the body is healthy to the fitness of the mind’ thought Mette, as she carried out what stretching exercises she could in the flight suit.
Jorek was less active; both mentally and physically.
”How long will they be?” he asked, almost whining the question to Mette.
”They should be able to get to us in about thirty-five minutes if the breeze is following nicely. Race you to that tree and back?” Mette pointed to a tall Spruce about a mile away that dominated the area.
”I’ll give you a minute’s head start?” Mette knew that Jorek was not going to be running anywhere, anytime soon.
His look was enough to confirm that.
”Okay. Stay cool.” and off she went.