In the last episode: Then, with my hand on the firing lever, I turned my attention back to my target and the Albatross had disappeared into thin air!
Mere seconds later I felt the impact of machinegun bullets slamming into the underside of my Spad and realized I had just fallen for one of the simplest and most effective tricks in the book. The Boche pilot had spotted me somewhere along the line, perhaps even before I saw him, and he had patiently waited for me to close into firing position. Then he had pulled his power completely off and lowered his nose, causing me to fly right over the top of his rapidly slowing ship. From that point he went to full power and raised his nose, putting my Spad directly in his gun sight.
Cursing the overconfidence that blinded me to the possibility that, by such a simple ruse, I could instantly become the hunted rather than the hunter, I did three things simultaneously. Slamming my throttle wide open, I stomped on my right rudder pedal, and yanked the control stick back and to the right.
My Spad responded by instantly rolling into a tight, climbing turn to the right and, hopefully, out of my foe's line of fire. Feeling no more hits from the Boche's guns, I knew I had gained a momentary reprieve, but I fully expected the German to press his advantage by following me into my turn. When I turned to look back, however, the Albatross was again nowhere to be seen. Now what was he up to?
I lowered the nose my ship, but stayed in the right turn until I had completed a full three-hundred-sixty degree circle. Then, leveling my wings, I scanned the sky above and below for the Boche. I spotted him nearly a mile ahead of me and running to the east for all he was worth. He had also dropped to tree-top level, using the descent to increase his speed and make himself harder to see against the ground.
In level flight, my S-Thirteen had a speed advantage of about twenty miles-per-hour over the Albatross. I would add to this advantage during my descent. Thus, I knew I could overtake the Boche before he reached the front lines about ten miles to the east. Given the skill he had demonstrated by suckering me into his trap, however, getting the Albatross into my gun sight again might be another matter entirely.
With the throttle still wide open, I aimed my nose at the rapidly fleeing Albatross and began closing the distance between us again. I saw the German pilot look back at over his shoulder, and when I closed to within firing range again, he took the only evasive action left to him. He pushed his left rudder pedal to the floor and the Albatross skidded left out of my gun sight.
I did exactly the same thing to bring my nose back on his tail. Just as that happened, he reversed the procedure and skidded to the right. Again, I followed his maneuver, but this time I kept my nose to the left of the Albatross so when he skidded back to the left a moment later, he flew directly into my line of fire.
Without hesitation, I fired and watched rips appear in the fabric along the left side of the Boche ship. Almost instantly a thin line of black smoke streamed from his engine and the Albatross slowed. I had hit something critical and I knew I had him.
This story is a work of fiction. Names, characters, locations, and incidents are the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is coincidental.
Story and design © Steve Eitzen
Header Graphic & HPO Logo © HPO Productions
Albatross image modified from public domain photograph