A Flying Saucer
by Mr. David R. Dorrycott
Harold Jay Wadsworth, the Fourth, gently adjusted his course, the elderly beaver turning according to the home-made radio direction finder mounted next to him. Behind him, twin-tuned counter- rotating Kinner R-5 engines purred along as though just started, together putting out a total of 320 horsepower. He’d picked up four crated engines for a song when the company began hurting for business in ‘35. Last year it was sold to a company his Uncle owned. These two were the most closely balanced, though figuring out how to get one to run in reverse had required contracting the engine department. How they had managed the feat he had no idea, but the two engines he had shipped to them had been returned rebuilt, a birthday gift from his uncle.
Looking around at the calm blue ocean below him he grinned. It was a fine afternoon, and he would reach his destination with only one major failure since leaving San Diego three days ago. At three o'clock in the morning that was. His departure at that time had been for a very serious reason. The Bureau of Air Commerce had wanted ‘One more flight test’, after seven previous successful tests. Not one that their own pilot would even try. Having survived the Great War as a pilot himself, Harold knew where that was going. So a bit of whiskey and a really pretty ferret had gotten him the inspector's signature, but he wanted no one to know about his aircraft until he reached Spontoon Island. Time was critical to him, as Speed Week would start in only two more days.
His craft though was no speedster. For upon reading reports of the Nemeth Umbrellaplane back in late ‘34 he had quickly noted the most obvious design mistakes. Those he had addressed, flying over his lonely ranch in Montana day after day, finding more problems, working out how to correct them. Crashing twice, once bad enough to spend two months in the hospital. Two months with some of the most horse-faced nurses he had ever seen. And not one of them a mare. Those many flights, though, had allowed him to tweak the newer design, catching errors that would have cost him his life had he been even a little less careful. This aircraft was a proof of concept. More, it was a mad dream from his very lonely brain. For, at almost forty years of age, he had not yet found a woman willing to live in the middle of nowhere. In fact, the nearest unmarried females of any species to his ranch were the Kriten sisters. And if there was an uglier, more selfish and controlling pair of sisters in this world, he’d never met them.
His aircraft was still a basic Nemeth design, for he hadn’t split the wing as those fool students at Miami University had. That turned the design into something other than its perfect circular shape. Moving it back into the monoplane family in his opinion. With a full circular wing, now a three dimensional form, and three times the vertical stabilizer area as the original design his aircraft was as steady as a boat on smooth waters. And water had given the beaver a serious headache. He knew that he had to land on water during Speedweek, otherwise no one would pay any attention to his design. Nearly a year of work, models, tests and more failures than he could easily remember had finally resulted in the three devices now mounted under his single wing.
Somewhat less than an hour later he spotted the first two outlying islets. According to his chart, they were the Les Paire Tétons. As he approached closer, he could see the resemblance. Resemblance? They almost looked sculpted to him. The twin islands confirming his position, so he turned on his transmitter. Waiting a few minutes for the tubes to warm and stabilize at this altitude he keyed his mike.
“XP-471M calling Spontoon tower. Approaching from the East at seven thousand feet. Do you read? Over.” As he waited the peak of Kiribatori Mountain peaked above the horizon, rising quickly as he approached even at his slow speed. Distances on the ocean, he had discovered, were quite deceptive.
“XP-471M . State your nation, pilot and intentions please. Over.”
“XP-471M to Spontoon tower. United States of America,” the beaver reported. “Capt...” He paused, releasing the key a moment. Captain Wadsworth was long gone. He no longer had any right to use that title. Keying his mike again he finished his transmission. “Mr. Harold Jay Wadsworth, pilot and sole person aboard. Intentions are to enjoy Speedweek, stay out of trouble, and return home once the races are finished. Over.”
“Roger. Estimated position, course and speed please. Over.”
He quickly gave his current course, noting that he was just passing over the westernmost island of the Les Paire Tétons. “Speed, one hundred seventy knots. Over.”
“Roger XP-471M . Are you wet or dry? Over.”
“Wet, sir. Over.”
“Understood. Wet.” What followed were course and speeds, what to look for and that a tow would be available as soon as his engines shut off. He acknowledged the information, having carefully written it into to his flight book, after double checking it all.
“XP-471M. You are cleared to lower to 5000 feet at this time. No other traffic at that altitude. Traffic at three, four, six and ten thousand feet within five miles. VFR rules in effect. Winds 63 degrees true, seven knots. Contact tower at the five mile marker. That will be a series of three anchored fishing boats flying yellow banners. Your approach will be directly over them at altitude. Over.”
“Roger Spontoon Control, and thank you. Standing by.” He replaced his microphone into its clip, beginning his approach to the harbor and landing area of Spontoon Island. Even now, his aircraft was no acrobatic machine, though she could fly for a full day without refueling... Once the wing was pumped up.
It wasn’t until XP-471M was a quarter mile out that Spontoon’s control tower believed what they were seeing. As they watched, three objects seemed to grow from the strange craft's underside. They certainly hadn’t been lowered, that the three furs were very certain of.
“Its ah bloody flyin cup-ahn-saucer” the chief controller gasped as XP-471M made its final approach. And that was exactly what it looked like. A saucer shaped wing, looking exactly as though two plates had been laid rim to rim, with an apparent half bubble placed in the middle. Two long ducts covered what must be the engines, as a thin trail of exhaust smoke trailed from each, and three bright red objects that looked like pontoons on its base.
They watched as the impossible aircraft drifted over final, moving comfortably at a speed that would have trouble keeping a Wright Flyer in the air. Then its bow lifted, and it settled to the water at no more than walking speed. As the three furs watched, their tongues hanging out, a tug eased out to haul the strange flying ‘thing’ to safety even as the wings seemed to collapse into themselves.
“Ah have never,” the Chief controller gasped.
“No one has,” one of the others agreed. A moment later the radio called for their attention, drawing them back to duty.
At the docking point the crafts actual design was much easier to see. What had appeared to the control tower as a half-bubble was actually a streamlined canopy, its fore and aft sections of flat laminated glass. Its wings, once the engines had shut off, had proven to be aluminum oxide doped canvas. Having been stiffened by compressed air delivered by those same engines they were now deflated, taking up a great deal less space than when in the air. Its red floats were also rubberized canvas, stretched into position by internal structures.
Opening the cockpit, Harold eased his duffel out of his craft. He had built it to hold two, himself and an inspector, so had decided not to place his possessions out of reach in the tiny cargo area. Stepping out himself he was nearly deafened by the crowds' reaction. As he carefully stepped off of his great single wing, a microphone was shoved into his face.
“Bob Parker, LONO radio news,” a young fox said quickly. “Sir, is this an entry into Speedweek?”
Harold had to laugh. “Entry? My good reporter. I can barely make 223 knots. Entry? They would be landing before I even got out of the water. No sir, I am afraid that this is nothing more than a private whimsey. Nothing more. Now, can you tell me where Customs is? I’m dying for a hot meal and a soft bed.”
“Um... That way,” the reporter answered, pointing towards a small building. “But sir, your aircraft....”
“Flew pretty good,” the beaver admitted as he walked away, duffel over his shoulder.
“I, uh... And there you have it, listeners. The most amazing aircraft design to fly into Spontoon. Now back to our studio and Patty Meets the Yellow Martian, Chapter Nine.”