A Cat In A Mig-21


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Scene Title A Cat In A Mig-21
Synopsis Getting a taste of high-performance aircraft flight and becoming familiar with FLIR.
Date March 16, 2009

Somehere in and over New York, city and state.

There's a procedure to getting into a Mig-21. This starts in a changing room where one is fitted for a flight suit, boots, gloves, G-suit, survival vest, helmet, oxygen mask and then a survival kit that one is told contains a firearm. There are forms, aproximately 12 billion of them, and then a fairly basic physical with a particularly good looking nurse.

Then it's outside, and a ride in a golfcart into the big hangar wearing CHICAGO AIR colors. Just inside sits the MiG. There's already somone in the front seat, fiddling with a long checklist as another pair works to attach the FLIR pod under the MiG's centerline. As soon as the golf cart stops, a bright eyed young tech walks over towards Cat and her golf cart. "Just this way, Miss, let's get your equipment stowed and I'll make sure you're buckled in alright. Have you eaten yet, do you need a snack?"

She arrived at just past ten a. m. for this. The paperwork and procedures took a bit of time, making it perhaps 11:30 before she's brought to the hangar where the MiG 21 rests. Cat is in excellent health, having no disfiguring marks (scars, tattoos, etc.) on her person and no internal problems. On stepping out of the golf cart, her eyes take in the hangar's exterior and surroundings then settle on the tech. Her hair is already arranged to be up off her neck and not interfere with things, the helmet is tucked under one arm, and the gloves have already been donned. All she has by way of other gear is a backpack.

"It's Doctor, actually," Cat replies with a pleasant chuckle as she walks forward. "And yes, I did eat." Then, walking forward, she looks over the aircraft. Literature she read is called up in her mind, the woman's already done some study of it and gained some knowledge of operations.

When the time comes, she hands over anything she doesn't need in flight to be stowed away.

The safety kit goes into a little slot under the chair, right above the ejection motor and the Tech steps off the short little loading ladder, and motions for Cat to come. "Helmet and gloves on first, Doctor. Then slip inside and I'll get you buckled in." She indicates to the bright red handles over top the seat. "First however, these are your ejection handles. They do not take much force to actuate so don't touch them, there is another pair directly above the stowage bay for your survival kit. Pulling either of these, will eject both you and the pilot immediately. With the FLIR gear in place, that would probably make for a very bad day."

As if you know ejecting the rest of the time was alright. Anyhow, inside the cockpit, is indeed a variance from the published photos of what MiG cockpits are supposed to work like. There's a distinct lack of that sickly green color for one, and all of the instruments are bright new. Three large multi function displays with only a couple of older analog guages here and there sparsed around. The Flir setup, consisted of a 'tray' which folds across your lap when seated. Upon said tray, an LCD screen and a little control array. Not unlike what you'd find on a Television news chopper.

She takes it all in, comparing what's seen with fully remembered images from things read where applicable, and settles into the seat, with helmet in place. The visor for it is raised, and her gear goes in the appropriate spot. The tech's instructions are heard and heeded, then Cat lowers her visor and waits for things to begin, eyes on the FLIR gear across her lap.

Cat is ready.

It takes another few moments, before the cockpit goes down and engine start begins. "Good evening, so good of you to join me. We should arrive at Moab just after daylight, so we get the most out of our Flir against cold sand. We'll make our return flight later that same day, and view the camp from the other side around noon." The voice was, smooth and nearly sultry. A woman's voice indeed, one with classical traning in the pronunciation of proper English no less.

"On the right side, by your right knee there's a panel. Press the panel in, and it'll open. I set the operations manual for our Flir mission pod inside there, we'll have plenty of time to read if you wouldn't rather talk." The MiG's engine winds higher and higher, until Ingrid's beloved 21' moves slowly forth. There' sporadic chatter with the tower, until it clears them onto the runway.

"Morning," Cat replies, as the aircraft is sealed and the pilot begins to speak. "Interesting," she remarks with a hint of surprise in her tone. "Your voice is rather different than when I last heard it. Unless you're not the person I was expecting to fly with." She turns attention to the display in her lap again. Nothing is said which would indicate panic or disquiet as the aircraft begins to move.

She observes the pilot's actions, instruments, and procedures as closely as she can.

"It's Ingrid now, but yes we've met before. I change my face, to keep the wrong people from recognizing me. Now, it's good night. We're running on Croatian locale time today, its this MiG's birthday." There's alot of sitting, and waiting to be done at the end of the runway. "Is this your first time in a high performance aircraft?"

"Ingrid," she repeats, chuckling a bit. "I'm Cat. I never forget. I've not flown in a jet like this before, but I've been teleported a number of times. I hope that prepares me somewhat for the experience." She keeps her eyes on the guages and such while they sit and wait for clearance, absorbing all she can. "Happy birthday, MiG-21," she offers respectfully.

"We're flying on the Spanish Inquisition today, a veteran of the Yugoslavian civil war and much of the Cha-." Theres a pause as the tower breaks in, with clearance. "Finally, and no I really don't think it does." Before the throttle slams foreward, the panels in front read airspeed, air temperature, fuel and ten thousand other things but down in one corner is a metric of particular interest.

Throttle: Afterburner

The MiG is off like a shot, the first two or three seconds really don't seem all that impressive but as the speeds increase so does the rate of acceleration. Six solid G's of pure acceleration, before the wheels finally lift off the runway and the MiG rolls upward until it's nearly entirely vertical. Throw in a spin or two, before it pulls in over the top, and the throttle eases back. 0-cruising speed on oh what ninety seconds? "There we are, oh the airsick bags are on your left if you need them."

She doesn't seem troubled by the reply she gets, seated calmly in her place. Nothing is said as the jet races forward and leaves ground, or as Ingrid comments about the location of airsick bags. Cat just observes and orients herself with the sensations of such g-forces and rapid acceleration, as well as the spins.

No complaints and, some may say, no use of the aforementioned bags.

"You can fiddle with the FLIR now, we just can't use it on the ground. You should get used to how the different modes work, plenty of traffic and city sprawl to practice on. Remember, I don't have a Flir display up here though, so if you need me to turn or roll one way or the other don't expect me to just know." Ingrid's voice is as cool and calm as ever, if not all the more now that she's in the air. Giving no indication of their little stunt.

"By the way Cat, if you happen to know of any of those test kit manufacturing sites along the way do tell me. I'd -love- to get a look at them from the MiG. My Twotter vibrates too much for the high magnification rigs like this one."

The FLIR device is brought active, and she begins to familiarize herself with how it works; Cat angles the cameras left, right, center, up, down, zooms and retreats back out to focus on things she sees below on the ground. It's broad daylight, so she doesn't use the infrared settings this time, although she does see how it'd be done.

A particular feature on the ground is selected a short time later, she zooms in to make it as big as possible, but parts can't quite be seen. Her voice comes through. "Could you bank a little to the left?"

It's her hope doing so will expose the rest of it.

Neatly, as soon as is requested she dips a wing. Angling gently downward to gently make sort've an outside turn, which should make things far easier. "Better?"comes that soft voice from upfront, peering suspiciously at her radar set the entire time. "we're going to have to divert a little, looks like a storm is rolling in."

"Thanks," Cat offers in reply to the pilot as she banks left and the feature she was after comes into the footage. The resolution and clarity of it all makes her smile. Her mind is at work as this happens, speculation about the mission taking place and being given voice.

"I talked with a man who knew some people planning to try getting recon of Moab before, he said they got rounded up in Vegas and never got close. I can't imagine they're going to be very thrilled about an aircraft approaching, whether identified or not. There may be surface to air missiles in play, fighter jets, or both. If at all possible, we should avoid detection by guards or prisoners."

"No, the US doesn't have any really badass SAM technology. There's CAWS, which is really pretty terrifying but the system isn't very long range and it's not allowed to fire below thirty degrees or so. If they do anything, it'll be fighters. Even then, the US's only remaining quick start aircraft are F-16s. This jet, unarmed, can outrun anything shy of an F-22 so I'm really not worried if we do chose to stray into controlled airspace." See, and -this- was a fun topic.

"US warfighting doctine is pretty weak against a lone aircraft, I mean even when I was still flying MiGs as a full time fighter pilot when the US took the threat of an air attack the most seriously they never had anything we got to see tested. The Stinger missile, which is really the only missile for aircraft interception is terrible at speed. Once it moves to intercept us, we just pull them into an altitude game and the Stinger suddenly handles like a telephone pole." Ingrid's all smiles of course, as she directs the MiG back on course. "Want to know what they -do- probably have?"

Her helmeted head nods without need from habit as she listens and takes it all in, Cat forming questions as the data inspires them. "Still," she opines when the floor is hers, "if they spot us, they may start having SAMs on site and take measures on the ground which make our end mission harder, Ingrid. We need to consider all angles, and stay out of notice as much as possible, while realizing we can't guarantee that."

She continues to zoom in on ground features and commit the aerial footage of US terrain into her digital everything recorder brain as the jet travels, listening at the same time for the pilot's opinions. "What do they have?" The aviator's impressions may well be true: things haven't been maintained at Cold War levels with Cold War focus.

"We're a registered commercial flight, with a commercial civilian IFF. They don't know what kind of plane we are, until they come and put their eyes on us. We've flown this route with our executive jets a dozen times at least, forget we're in a MiG because on the radar they don't know that." The US had indeed spent money on strategic warfare, never tactical. US aviators were taught to play chess, not checkers and this was retained as they got promoted.

"They have a CAWS, most likely. It's a big twenty millimeter chain gun with rapid fire capability, if we get caught above it there is no survival. However it's close range only, and it can't engage targets below thirty degrees. They can't have F-15s and F-16s sitting charged and ready at a minute's notice, SAC is gone. They don't have aircraft capable of sitting around half powered like that, F-15s can take half an hour to get turned on and twice as long if you have to arm and fuel them. That leaves F-16s, which can sit loaded but not quite half charged. Even a MiG-21 can outrun an F-16, and this isn't a fleet at sea. Naval aircraft can be loaded and launched in minutes, Soviet aircraft can yes. Remember, the US air defence architects were designing aircraft and weapon systems for big slow moving Russian TU-95 bears. "

"I didn't doubt you had thought it all through," Cat replies. "Much of the questioning is so we're on the same page and have comfort with things being addressed. You may have means to mask the plane's IFF and transponder, we also have a technopath who can pull that off. I recommend having her in the loop, playing interference between us and the FAA."

Mindful that Ingrid said a storm is coming earlier and the flight may be truncated, Cat elects to take a different tack now as she continues studying the terrain. "What various types of planes do you have, Ingrid? I've become interested in learning to fly. I can cover a good bit of it by reading through manuals and the like once."

The only obvious change, as noted by one of the screens in back, is altitude. "Normally I would need help with that, but this is a legitimate commercial aircraft with entirely legitimate and legal credentials to prove it. It's listed as Chicago Air, Experimental. Which is what the old Aviat pits and the Ch701 are registered as too, so don't you worry about that."

"Uhm, well personally just the Spanish Inquisition here. A Former Croatian MiG-21UM with a lot of goodies from the BIS and Buffalo upgrade programs. I also have a Twin otter, the Canned Ham. That was the first airplane I ever personally owned, I bought it in Alaska after the previous owner got eaten by a bear."

"Corporate wise, um, well there's a lot. Pilatus PC-12s for regional turboprops, which see the most service of anything we've got. We have four Bombardier BD-700s which are fast long distance corporate jets. Augusta A-109s which are sort've comparable to that Eurocopter I flew on the raid, but way safer and and they're cheaper to maintain. Um, Some old Bo-105s for patient transfers and Search and rescue stuff we do but we don't have any in New York right now."

"Then we have MD-500s for sort of flying swiss army knives, but I just signed a deal to replace'em with Kamovs. KA-32s." There's a pause there, Ingrid isnt sure if Cat really has a clue as to what she's talking about before remembering Cat's supposed to be the smart one!

"If you want to learn how to fly, I'll teach you. If you want to become a proper aviator, rather than just a pilot it'd be my pleasure. Dont do any of these schools though, they're designed to just get you your ticket as soon and as cheaply as possible. You should start with gliders, and then motor gliders, and then light fixed wing aircraft before you even consider testing for your license."

"I'm a fast learner," Cat replies with a grin hidden behind the visor of her helmet. "I'd be able to read through the applicable manuals and learn all they hold about mechanical operations easily, it'd only take one pass through to remember every word and diagram." She hasn't the slightest doubt about that. "What needs teaching and practice is the hands-on part. Books don't prepare for every possible combination of things that could go wrong in the air, and they definitely don't always translate to split-second decision making."

She doesn't comment on the various aircraft mentioned; maybe she knows about them or doesn't, but at the very least she'll have done some research before they talk next and be able to hold her own in conversation. The voice returns, its tone professionally calm and respectful of Ingrid's experience as Cat speaks. "I could even remember every story you tell me and apply the solutions you share about troubles that occurred to use them myself if I run into one, and that covers part of the gap between information and practical, but I don't presume it fully subtitutes for direct experience."

Fedor hmms softly, pondering that for a long moment or two. "So, ok assuming I'm going to help you. What do you want to fly, what interests you the most? Gliders, high performance aircraft, general aviation, helicopters? I'm open to teaching, if I know where you really want to go. I love telling stories, but a lot of this just takes time. You really can't learn, until you've been there in that situation."

"You recommended starting with gliders," Cat replies, "so that seems the place to start. Crawl before walking, as it were." She takes some moments to think before adding "In terms of helicopters, where would you recommend starting, or do you advise mastering fixed wing before moving to rotary wing?" Then another burst of silence. "What would your fee for this training be?"

"Fuel is my fee. I'm a socialist at heart, I believe people should have the careers they want and can succeed in reguardless of their financial situation. I give flight instruction for free when I can afford the spare time." A pause for a moment, a sharp exhale marking Ingrid's pensive situation over the intercom if only just. "That doesn't answer my question though, do you just want to learn to know how or is this really important to you?"

"We're both busy women," Cat replies. "I'd like to learn as much as possible, but circumstances say I have to simply become capable and functional." She goes distant for a moment, adding "Maybe someday, if things are different, there'll be time for passion about flying. Right now, I'm a renaissance woman, wanting to be capable in as much as possible."

Her mind is drifing for a moment, turning to thoughts of Dani and the as yet unscattered ashes. The plan had been to stand at the highest point of New York's tallest bridge and scatter them with Helena, Elisabeth, and Ygraine present at the least, but that didn't pan out. One of the bridges still fell, and Helena got taken. So laying Dani to rest waits.

As a single tear rolls down, concealed by helmet, the thought comes to her mind. There may always be that next pressing mission in life calling focus away from indulging passions.

There are fire alarms, gun alarms, radar alarms, intake pressure alarms and master alarms but sadly there are no tear alarms. "If you don't have passion for something, life is hardly worth living, Cat. I don't know what I'd do if I couldn't fly, probably kill myself I suspect, I don't have anything else left really. I can't look in the mirror and recognize myself anymore, and I mean I've spent so much time as a Father and a Mother and a wife and a husband and everything else." She goes silent. Smiling softly in spite of herself.

"Hey, can you keep a secret, Cat? I have a good one to tell, and an invitation if you want it."

"I'm a guitarist and singer at heart," Cat relates quietly with a chuckle. "I'm happiest on a stage, performing. There are things to be done in the world, however, so I tend to them."

After a brief interlude of silence, she replies "I can, and I'm listening."

"I have houses all over the place, I just sort of collected them over the years but the two I really care about are in Alaska and in Newfoundland. Teo, as you may have noticed, isn't handling the stress very well. It's a stressful situation, so I told him I needed him for three days for something ultra important. I'm going to take him on a vacation, let him relax a little. Otherwise, I fear he's going to start making mistakes." Ingrid hasn't said -where- any of these houses are just yet, of course.

"So why don't you come with, It's a very nice property. We could do some flight instruction, take the Twin otter up there. It's pretty easy to fly, we can find an excuse to go shopping in all the little port towns. Fish and such like you have never seen in your life."

"It seems a good idea," Cat replies. "We'd need to keep contact with the city in case of contingencies, but being relaxed prior to a dangerous operation is a good thing. Clear the mind, repair focus, take some time to live and breathe before putting life itself on the line." She's wistful as she speaks.

"I'll try to be free for the trip."

Fedor smiles behind her mask a touch "Good, infact thats excellent. I'm going to take a little nap, the autopilot is all set. If anything strange happens, or we deviate in either altitude or bearing go ahead and shout and I'll wake back up. Sound good to you?"

And with the autopilot on as Ingrid sleeps, or seems to, Cat contents herself with studying the ground below. She learns a good deal about the terrain and areas flown over, as well as getting thoroughly familiar with the FLIR. Should there be no reason for concern, that sleep is undisturbed and the excursion concludes some time later.

March 16th: Short Sleeves
March 16th: Making New Friends
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