Roma Writer's Group
The Works of David Bowden
The Olympic Flight (so far untitled)
The figure sprawled in the front seat of the maroon Holden Statesman parked on the hill at Campbell Park overlooking the lights of Roma. Through a mellow fog brought on by just a few to many Bundaberg Rum and Cola cans consumed at the Anzac Day celebrations, Wing Commander Grant Blackman surveyed the twinkling lights of homes and business in his home town.
The normally Royal Australian Air Force penchant for neatness and self awareness were not apparent in Grant Blackman's untidy hair, shirt and tie carelessly open with his cap and uniform jacket tossed carelessly on the passenger seat beside him. A mellow feeling came from just spending a day as the invited guest speaker and parade representative at the cenotaph near the Bungil Street Cultural centre. An inner burning of hatred to the Government of the day for sending so many young Australians to Vietnam burned inside him. Grant Blackman had flown helicopters in what appeared a senseless war that killed so many defenceless people.
The Anzac luncheon in the Roma RSL Hall had driven home again the effect the war had on his family and friends. His brother, Steven, had been caught up in the draft and was one of the first to be killed in action when he stepped on a land mine. Other friends from properties and businesses had been at the Anzac day service. While they had been happy to be with each other, stories of personal and health problems quickly made the rounds.
Eventually Grant straightened himself and started the car for the drive to his father's property just North of Roma. The feeling of personal loss of his brother and the plight of his friends rested heavily with him. He drove carefully through the late night streets of Roma. Glimpses of well remembered shop fronts flashed past as he made his way out west onto Dargal Road. Once on the open road the Statesman responded to his pressure on the accelerator. Quickly the speedo reached 140 kph on the bitumen road. Then as the bitumen gave way to gravel he kept the speed up. No regard was given to a kangaroo or cow coming across his path. Gravel sprayed from the wheels as dips and turns in the road were instinctively handled by the motions of hands guided by a brain trained to answer the high degree of expertise to fly F111 aircraft.
As the turn off appeared to his father's property appeared in his headlights the frantic desire to pit his skills against a machine subsided.
A soft light still glowed on the verandah as he came up the garden path. " How are you doing, Dad?" he asked as he stepped towards a vacant squatter's chair.
"Not bad son," Norm Blackman replied. "Watched the ABC News on television. There was a quick shot of you at the cenotaph giving your address. Been thinking about you and Steve. You should know I'm proud of you both. Hope you know that."
"Yes Dad I know. Steve would have been a terrific breeder of cattle if he had beaten the Grim Reaper in Vietnam. Guess I have been lucky in the force too," Grant replied.
"I'd better hit the hay. Have to leave fairly early to get back to base," he said as he moved towards his old bedroom.
Morning brought a building sense of resentment to those who played world politics and a deep sense of loss of a brother who should now be helping his elderly father.
This feeling stayed with him as he drove back to the Amberley Air Force base near Ipswich the following day. During this trip a plan to pay back the Federal Government started to form. It was fitting that a Liberal/National Party coalition led by John Howard was in power. This was the same type of government that caused his ever-constant pain. Flying helicopters that dropped napalm on a number of innocent villages. Grant had been careful to hide his true feelings and had risen with respect through the ranks to Wing Commander. He was due for retirement from the Air Force at the time of the coming Olympic Games in Sydney. He now harboured a desire to cleanse himself by death and wipe out the Australian Government at the same time.
Over the months leading up to the Olympic Games Grant's plan seemed to take its own course. His high regard in the Air Force was to be rewarded with the privilege of being one of three pilots to be used in a dawn fly past of the Sydney Opera House. He would fly his F111 fighter plane down from Amberley and link up with two other pilots from nearby Campbelltown just North of Sydney.
Over the months Grant carefully worked with some heads of Supply and Air Traffic Control. There is still a deep resentment among a number of serving defence personnel towards the Vietnam issue. The have all aged and been promoted as a matter of course. The plan was to have a payload of fully armed warheads on his plane and in the predawn his plane would be loaded and no comment would come when he taxied off.
As the time came closer they were told that the exercise would be used as welcome to the daughter of the President of the United States of America, Chelsea Clinton. Chelsea had been a popular figurehead at the Olympic Games. Television shots of her enjoying the swimming with Australian icon, Dawn Fraser, were splashed around Australia, U.S.A and the world. Especially satisfying to Australia was Michael Klim's air playing of a guitar when the Australian team won the first major relay. After all the captain of the American team had said just prior to the games that the Americans would bust the Australians at swimming, " Just like guitars."
Chelsea had laughed as loud as any one in the Chandler Complex at the Australian antics.
Chelsea was to have a brief visit to Adelaide in South Australia and then return to Sydney for the Athletics to cheer on Michael Jackson, Maurice Greene and Marion Jones.
Prime Minister John Howard had taken the initiative to hold a pre-dawn breakfast in the Sydney Opera House. His intention was to welcome the daughter of the President of United States to Australia in a gathering of all the members of both the Lower House and the Senate.
All the invitations had been eagerly answered by all politicians in a remarkable show of willingness to be associated with an attractive and popular Ambassador for the United States. The invitation had included wives and partners willing to watch the sun rise over the Pacific and view the fly past of the elite of Australia's Air Force at precisely the time the sun peeped over the horizon.
As the early morning parade of official cars started arriving in the blackness of the early morning, an aide carefully monitored everyone as they entered the reception area. Without exception, every politician and their partner wanted to be included in the gathering. They had been making terrific mileage out of personal appearances at various venues around the Olympic sports arenas. Now something to remember and tell present and future grandchildren held a strong appeal.
Earlier that morning Grant Blackman had supervised his associates as they loaded the live warheads to his sleek F111 in its hangar. It seemed so easy that the Chief Officier of Supplies and Stores should handle the work himself. Everything went smoothly along the strict Royal Australian Air Force guidelines for safety and completion of work with the minimum of effort for the maximum result. The aircraft was pulled out to the Amberley airstrip ready for Grant to board and do his pre flight check.
His friend in Air traffic Control had made sure his shift had been allocated to this flight. All three conspirators were level headed and unconcerned about what they planned to happen. After all three men taking out a full government of Liberal/National Party, opposition Labor Party and various Minor Party politicians appeared good odds. Just maybe world politicians would think more clearly before starting another war. More importantly Australian Politicians may think carefully before rushing to assist good ole U.S. of A. in any future conflict.
The long remembered litany of requests and answers went between Grant and the Traffic Controller. Everything by the book and soon the aircraft was rolling smoothly down the tarmac for take-off. It seemed eerie that this was the last time he would pilot an aircraft.
Grant had been careful to only drink mineral water at his send off last night. The end of a career came with a hollow feeling not noticed by his fellow officiers. Their own heavy drinking meant that there was no one to wish him well on this last flight. Grant liked it that way too. The few eyes that casually looked towards the moving plane took no notice of anything in particular as they went about their duties at the end of a graveyard shift.
Smoothly in the air and over Moreton Bay, Grant heard his Air Traffic Controller friend give a coded message of good luck for a successful mission. The flight plan did not go overland. Instead Grant had chosen to fly along the coastline over the Pacific to avoid inquisitive eyes that may have the odd chance of noticing something wrong or out of the ordinary with his aircraft.
In Sydney, the aide and his assistants were welcoming the few late comers to the Opera House Reception Lounge. Groups had formed throughout the room. All tried to attract the attention of Chelsea Clinton to get her to speak with them and hopefully be photographed or filmed by the ever-present media.
As the last of the vehicles moved away to park, a certain red headed lady leader of one of the minor parties was making her way down the steps of her Sydney Hotel. Her distinctive shrill voice was admonishing her escort for being late and having an Olympic Hangover from too much partying with athletes the night before. Midway down the steps she turned to deliver her best torrent of words. Her ankle turned and twisted as she fell down. Her companion rushed to assist her. However it was patently obvious that there would only be hospital and not a social gathering for the vocal red headed politician.
Later the aide at the Sydney Opera House received the call telling him that this one politician would not be attending. Privately he thanked his lucky stars. Among a gathering of show ponies this politician had caused him some grief in the past. As he looked down his list he saw that every politician in both the Lower House and the Senate was in attendance.
Grant flew by the book for most of the way. Then on impulse decided to buzz the waves of the Pacific. Coming down the Northern New South Wales coast, he felt elated at his powress at the controls and how he could make the craft respond to his demands. Just North of Byron Bay he decided to swoosh along the beach. Flying low, he dashed along the beach. Retired Air Commodore Archie Mc Donald was taking his early morning tide readings in the piccaninny dawn. With a long remembered reaction to low flying aircraft he threw himself down on the sand and rolled on his back. With utmost disbelief he recognised an F111 only metres above him. More importantly he saw the distinctive painted markings of live warheads on the aircraft.
Training made him reach for his mobile phone to report to his old init in Canberra. As luck would have it his battery was flat.
Grant flew to just North of Sydney and met his two associate aircraft from Campbelltown in the deepest dark before the dawn. They easily took their positions for the flight up Sydney harbour from the Pacific past the Opera house.
Inside the Opera House and out on balconies Chelsea Clinton and all the Australian politicians faced the Pacific to await the dawn and the arrival of the welcome to a new day.
The three aircraft banked to turn for the run towards Sydney Harbour and Grant's destiny to fly up the steps of the opera House and crash his plane into the Great Arch to eliminate the President of the United States daughter and all the Australian politicians.
An authoritative voice came over the headsets of all the pilots, "Code Two! Code Two! Abort Mission! Abort Mission! Aircraft One and Two wing tip escort Bogey Three to Campbelltown! Repeat Bogey Three is armed - Security Risk is Priority One!
Years of training meant that the quick reaction saw Grant's companions close formation. Past training let him know that his plan had failed.
Later he was to hear of the frantic phone call from Retired Air Commodore Archie Mc Donald to alert authorities to possible danger. The media were told a malfunction had occurred in an aircraft and the fly past aborted.
Presumably Chelsea Clinton and the Australian politicians continued on with the activities of the Olympics Down Under. As Wing Commander Grant Blackman's Court Martial came to light, political pundits were left to analyse the possible tensions of the death of Chelsea Clinton may have on USA and Australian relationships. Also if all the Australian politicians were killed, how would Australia cope with only one red headed politician in a Sydney hospital was responsible for the country if some other tragic event placed Australia at risk.
Some time later an elderly man sat on the verandah of his homestead just outside Roma and bleary eyes pondered the early death of one son and the self-destruction of the other. (Ends)