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"The Long Way Round: The Plane that Accidentally Circumnavigated the World"

Posted May 11 into Awesome by John Birmingham

This is a three part story by John Bull (seriously) at Medum that is defnitely worth half an hour's quiet time and maybe a glass or two in memory of some ordinary guys who pulled off an extra-ordinary feat. An accidental circumnavigation of the globe in a flying boat during the first days of the Second World War. I couldn't help but wonder why Stephen Spielberg hadn't bought the rights yet.

By morning they had been airborne for almost 19 hours, flying on Swede’s careful balance of 90 octane and on Brown’s ‘guestimated’ route. They knew they should be nearing land, but the layer of low-lying cloud beneath them was a problem.

“We’d better start heading down.” Said Ford. “I don’t much relish the idea of missing the island and having to backtrack while our fuel reserve gets used up.”

Swede eased back on the mixture and they slowly felt their way down. Soon they were flying a mere 300 feet above the waves. They began to look for land.

A little later, as they neared the coast, Johnny Mack yawned. It had been a long flight and he was looking forward to both sleep and a breakfast. Ahead, out of the cockpit, the sea was calm and unbroken. Unbroken, he noticed, apart from…

“Hey Skipper.” He remarked with a frown. “What do you suppose that is, there, dead ahead? A whale maybe?”

Ford squinted, following his First Officer’s gaze to the object on which they were closing fast. Suddenly his eyes flew wide.

“Submarine!” He shouted.

By now the conning tower was visible, a Rising Sun painted on its side, men running towards the large gun on its foredeck.

“Swede!” Ford bellowed, “Full rich! Full power!”

“They’re aiming that thing at us!” Mack warned.

“Max climb! Let’s get the hell out of here!” Ford cried.

With the sluggish Boeing 314 resisting the change, Ford and Mack hauled back on the yoke desperately seeking the cloud cover above. They blazed directly over the submarine mid-climb, the deck gun below swinging round as it began to track them through the sky. After what seemed to the crew like an eternity, they finally broke through into the clouds. It was just in time. A bright flash from below illuminating the clouds around them. The men braced for impact.

It runs over three installments. The first is here.

6 Responses to ‘"The Long Way Round: The Plane that Accidentally Circumnavigated the World"’

WA n'ker mutters...

Posted May 11
Sweet

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jl asserts...

Posted May 11
This story is simply amazing. It deserves to be read. Imagine flying around the globe on bad gas using a library atlas to navigate with unknown support infrastructure on the ground. And oh yes, you are doing this amidst the Second World War. Astounding. Thanks for sharing this, JB.

John Birmingham mumbles...

Posted May 12
I think I got the link on Twitter from Greybeard. It is an amazing tale.

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insomniac would have you know...

Posted May 11
Reminds me of the time we turned left instead of right after leaving Heathrow and ended up going the wrong way around the M25. By the time we figured it out, it was simpler to carry on.

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Bondiboy66 mutters...

Posted May 14
Cracker of a story!

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Halwes puts forth...

Posted May 14
That was so interesting. Thanks John. There is a book called an intruders guide to East Arnhem land by the late Andrew Macmillan that describes the old flying boat base at Groote Eylandt really well. It was a major stopover on the way from Sydney to London.

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