By Major Charlie Himes, Chief Test Pilot
Transcribed from “BAD News – Journal of the Bad 2 Association” Vol. 8, No. 3, July 1985
© 1985 BAD 2 Association
I took off from BAD 2 in that good old P-51, “Spare Parts”, bound for Glasgow, Scotland, to pick up our monthly ration of Teachers Scotch. (I don’t know how we got on the list to HAVE a monthly ration, but we did.) It was two cases, to be picked up at the distillery.
I had to contact a Mrs. —- and sign a slip for it, plus pay (wholesale) for it. There were always plenty of eager buyers for the bottles when I got back.
Landed at an airport near Glasgow (Editor’s Note: Maps show one near Paisley) and took a cab to town. Got the booze, and returned to “Spare Parts”. Stowed the Scotch in the back seat. (When “Spare Parts” wasn’t available, we sometimes used a P-51 with no wing guns. The bottles would replace the missing guns, necessitating VERY smooth landings!)
The weather had worsened, with clouds down to 600 to 700 feet. With some pretty high hills between Glasgow and the coast, I figured to follow the valley from Glasgow to Prestwick and then head south along the coastline.
Then, suddenly the land gave out! Nothing but rough looking salt water ahead! I peered down through the haze, looking for the next arm of the coast… but NOTHING!!
About that time I realized what I’d done. I had headed a few degrees too far west, and instead of passing over the Solway Firth, I’d flown across Luce Bay, mistaking the Isle of Man for Cumbrian coast, and was now well out in the Irish Sea, headed for St. George’s Channel.
With a few beads of sweat on my forehead and a dry mouth, I kicked left rudder, did a quick 90ᵒ turn, and hoped I was headed for Blackpool. I sure hoped that good ole engine wouldn’t give up now. If it did, they’d never know where I went. They would search the route from Glasgow to Blackpool (the direct route), and never in the world look way out in the Wild Irish Sea for a little orange life raft. They’d mourn for “Spare Parts” and the two cases of Scotch, and say “What happened to old Himes?”.
But those beautiful twelve cylinders never missed a beat, though I thought I heard a splutter every few minutes. After HOURS of flying east (about 20 minutes) the old Blackpool Tower appeared in the mist. In four more minutes I touched down, with my precious cargo intact (deep breath). I guess the moral is: “Navigate very carefully, when you’re hauling good booze.”