The mechanics in the hangars are getting to know me pretty well these days, and that’s not really a good thing.
Granted, most of the time I’m able to fly my crates back from a sortie to the airfield. I’ve been blessed the war hasn’t claimed me as a casualty yet. And on that return flight, I usually take note of what damage will need to be on the after-action reports. Often, it’s the usual damage: bullet holes in the fuselage, perhaps a small hole in the wing or some cracks in the canopy. Once, it was smoke and oil spewing from the engine cowling.
It’s the landing that adds to my damage report. Substantially. As in, double or triple.
I’m not coming in particularly hot. At least, I don’t think so. I’m just coming in hard — like rip off the landing gear, jam guns 2 and 3, “I think I just lost a filling and a crown” kind of hard. It’s more than just embarrassing; it’s painful.
The flight instructors never really covered much of the landings in flight school. It’s likely they didn’t expect us to live long enough to really need that much training. And practicing doesn’t really do much if I keep practicing the same errors. Though if I keep going at my current rate, the Allies aren’t going to have many more crates with which I’m allowed to “practice.”
Take my last sortie, for example. Took off from a grass strip in a LaGG-3 after a Focke Wulf 189 bomber sighted near the field. Racing ahead of my squad mate, that for some reason couldn’t keep up, I unloaded rounds directly into its port-side engine and blew the crew back to Hell. On the return flight, we encountered a pair of Junkers 87s. My mate took down one, and I scored the other. I was so fortunate as to have not been hit once the entire flight.
Damn if I was going to meet my Maker landing in the “safety” of my own airspace with nary a Nazi for 30 klicks in any direction.
So instead of returning the plane back to our grass strip, I flew another 12 klicks south to land on the only Allied-occupied concrete tarmac airfield. My commander was furious, but better him being mad at me than me digging a 400-meter trench into the Motherland trying to land my plane on a bumpy, grass pasture that’s been mowed to give the appearance of a runway. Much better than tearing the plane to shrapnel. And far better than killing myself.
So myself and my plane returned safely from the Nazi encounters, save for the lashing of my commander.