23 Aug


I’m a thousand miles above the Coral Sea in a P-51 Mustang.  It’s a slow, heavily armoured bulldog of a fighter outfitted with more .30 .cal machineguns than you can shake a fist at.  I’m so high because of the physics of dogfighting; we’re in an air dominance war with Japanese Zeroes, they’re much lighter and can out-climb us.

So while my mates circle below me, small as flies, I’m upside down craning my view down through my cockpit searching for Zeroes.  When I spot one coming over the first mountain from their carriers I put my game face on.  I bring my view back down to stop looking through the top of my cockpit window and I cut the engines.  With no thrust I don’t have to manoeuvre and can enter a freefall dive.  After I right myself I gun the engines, but lightly, to position myself above my prey.  He has no idea what is about to happen.  As I dive I fly on a curve to slow myself down but keep my momentum going — slowing down in a dogfight will always get you killed, but going too fast will make you useless as you fly past enemies.  Because I’ve come down from behind, this chap has his sights set on my flyboys who are getting the business done on fair terms.  But right now, fair isn’t my game.

I spin this way and that as he does in order to get a fix on him and swoop with him, so I can get on his tail and blast him out of the sky.  I only need a few seconds.  Well, I only have a few seconds.  Once he realizes I’m here he’ll start jinking and I’ll have to follow him to get the kill — giving his guys time to gun me down as I awkwardly manoeuvre to catch him.  So I need to do this right, especially after all that time climbing, searching, and diving.  But I manage to remain calm.  This sucker is mine.  I can feel it.  I get on his tail as he swoops by a mountain, hoping I’m not close enough yet to show up as an enemy flyer on his HUD.  But he doesn’t juke, just keeps flying forward, climbing just a bit.  I climb with him and squeeze off bursts, careful not to overheat my guns, just above him.  He rises right into my stream of tracers and a second later his fuselage explodes as I fly through the twisting wreckage, victorious.

I jink and flip and fly low over the water, then twist around a mountain and climb.  I don’t know if his friends saw me, but I have to fly as if they did.  I need to make my getaway.  I get my answer as tracers fly too close to my cockpit.  Knowing I can’t out-climb a Zero I twist and enter a dangerously fast dive.  I pull up, almost too slowly against the momentum, and come up just above the water.  No more tracers.  I fly over one of our friendly carriers to patch up some of the small hits I took during my run and then climb again with Red Baron aspirations.

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