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The Final Flight

James Blatch

The Final Flight by James Blatch published by Vivid Dog Limited, 4a Church Street, Market Harborough, LE16 7AA, UK.

ISBN: 978-1-8384894-0-3

Copyright © 2021 by James Blatch

All rights reserved.

No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without written permission from the author, except for the use of brief quotations in a book review.

For permissions: contact@vivid-dog.com

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, businesses, companies, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

Cover by Stuart Bache




1. Tuesday 7th June

2. Wednesday 8th June

3. Thursday 9th June

4. Friday 10th June

5. Saturday 11th June

6. Sunday 12th June

7. Monday 13th June

8. Tuesday 14th June

9. Wednesday 15th June

10. Thursday 16th June

11. Friday 17th June

12. Saturday 18th June

13. Sunday 19th June

14. Monday 20th June

15. Tuesday 21st June

16. Wednesday 22nd June

17. Thursday 23rd June

18. Friday 24th June

19. Saturday 25th June

20. Sunday 26th June

21. Monday 27th June

22. Tuesday 28th June

23. Wednesday 29th June

24. Thursday 30th June

25. Friday 1st July

26. Saturday 2nd July

27. Sunday 3rd July

28. Monday 4th July

29. Tuesday 5th July

30. Wednesday 6th July

31. Thursday 7th July

32. Friday 8th July

33. Friday 14th July

34. Monday 5th September


Coming soon…


About the Author


It begins with nothing.

A space in the sky, silence on a radio channel.

A turn of the head in a control tower; a first inkling that something, somewhere, is not right.

There could be a range of benign explanations.

But old squadron hands sense death quickly.

Events unfold with their own momentum and a predictable narrative.

Somewhere in the countryside, a puzzled farmer stares at a plume of rising black smoke.

Within an hour of the missed radio call, a man in uniform knocks on the door of a married quarter.

He stands in silence, hoping his presence alone will convey the gravity of his message.

It always does.

Families mourn, but the men in flying coveralls must go back into the air.

They bury their friend, then bury their grief.

Away from public view, serious men with clipboards pore over the debris and piece together the sequence of events.

Arguments and compromise precede the publication of an official document on flimsy government paper.

It invariably contains two words. A final insult to young men who had so much of their lives to live but who died in the blink of an eye on a weekday afternoon.

Pilot error.



Tuesday 7th June

The peace of Blethwyn Valley was shattered for thirteen seconds.

The rabbits sensed the man-made thunder first and bolted for their burrows. The sheep, slow to react, scattered only as it arrived overhead, briefly blotting out the June sun. Invisible vortexes sent a buzzard tumbling in the air.

The four engines left a trail of black smoke in the disturbed wake and a deep rumble that quickly faded.

There were no witnesses.

The RAF Avro Vulcan bomber had come and gone on a sleepy weekday in a remote part of Wales.

The Welsh were at work.

And that’s how the men of the Royal Air Force Test Flying Unit liked it.

To be unobserved.

Had there been a witness—maybe a farmer turning his head at the sudden and loud intrusion to his otherwise tranquil surroundings—it’s doubtful he would have noticed anything unusual about this particular flight.

He may have been able to identify the Vulcan, perhaps because of its distinctive delta wing, but it’s less likely he would have spotted the bulge of white casing with a glass-panelled front, nestled under the nose of the bomber.

Although unremarkable in appearance, it was the most secret and significant item of military equipment on the planet.

Inside the white casing, behind the small glass panel, was a laser.

As far as the outside world was concerned, laser was a rudimentary and far from mobile technology.

But then the world doesn’t know what the world doesn’t know, and the men of the TFU were under threat of arrest to keep it that way.

As the Vulcan exited the far end of the valley, the wings rolled left, and the throttles edged up to eighty-five per cent of maximum to sustain the target speed through the turn. The stick eased back, the rudder deflected left—just a smidge—as the nose heaved thirty degrees and the jet rolled out on a new heading.

On board, not a single member of the crew had touched a flying control.

In fact, they were discussing the football.

Chris Milford tried to ignore the navigator’s drone regarding the England squad for the forthcoming World Cup. He didn’t share Steve Bright’s concern that there were too many West Ham players in the side. He understood the point about the Hammers being a pedestrian, unglamorous side that didn’t produce the type of flair players needed to win a World Cup, but Millie had work to do.

He concentrated on inserting a reel of magnetic tape into a brown cardboard sleeve. A simple enough task on the ground, but difficult when your seat is being hauled through the bumpy, low-level air at three hundred and fifty knots.

After a successful struggle, he scribbled a serial number on the cardboard and dipped into a pocket on his flying coveralls to pull out a small notepad. Millie adjusted the light that hung down on a pipe from the panel in front of him and added the tape serial number to a list. He had to pause as the jet rose and fell, weaving its way through the Welsh hills.

Alongside the serial number, he noted the date, flight number and time. He paused, casting his eye up the list of previous entries, noting the accumulation of flying hours.

So far, so good for project Guiding Light.

Millie tucked the notebook back into his pocket and turned his attention to the switches, dials and readouts in front of him.

Sitting in a well below the cockpit, facing backwards, he studied the converted navigator radar station.

The Guiding Light panel sparkled orange, electronically generated numbers pulsing as they changed

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