This week’s short story challenge

This week’s writing challenge revolves around a detail from a photo I took in the 1980s of a British Aerospace Sea Harrier.

Sea Harrier in action - photo I took in the 1980s, scanned and resurrected...
Sea Harrier FRS Mk 1 of the Fleet Air Arm’s 801 Squadron on descent – not great quality, but it’s a detail from a photo of mine resurrected from an old print. Note the film grain.

These aircraft have to be heard to be believed. Remember that scene in Arnie’s 1994 flick True Lies, where his character pilots a USMC version of the Harrier – the McDonnell Douglas AV-8B – and shouts through a broken canopy to someone clinging to the nose, all while hovering? Well, you can’t, because (1) if the canopy breaks, some of the bits get sucked into the sole thing holding the aircraft up and Bad Stuff happens. In any case, (2) if somebody did try to hang on to the nose while the Harrier was hovering, they’d be sucked into the motor too, see (1). Meanwhile, (3) a Harrier is so loud you can’t make yourself heard by shouting while right in front of the intakes, even if you weren’t inhaled by them.

Why? Well, the thrust of the Rolls Royce Pegasus engine exceeds aircraft weight, which is necessary for a VSTOL aircraft but otherwise unusual. How much thrust? About ten tons, give or take depending on the model. That’s right. Ten tons. And in a hover the Pegasus – irrespective of model – demands more air than the intakes can admit. See that line of blow-in doors (open in my photo)? They’re there for a reason. So yeah, the Harrier isn’t so much the world’s best VSTOL aircraft as a flying vacuum cleaner.

Use the photo to inspire a 150-200 word super-short story – a proper one, with beginning, middle, end and punchline (all super-short stories gotta have a punchline) – and post it on your blog, with the prompt photo and a link back to this blog for others to pick up and join in the fun. Of course the story can be about anything.

Copyright © Matthew Wright 2016

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