Disclaimer: I do not own "Wings" or any of its characters. I am not affiliated with the show in any way except by being a humble fan.
Joe could never remember being so frightened in his life. The tower had notified him only moments earlier--Helen Chappel, the girl from the lunch counter, was up in the plane alone with Brian, who had been knocked out cold. Helen, who was not a pilot and had only had a few days of "ground school," would have to make an emergency landing, and Joe would have to be the one to talk her down.
Joe was now peering through the window of the tower with binoculars into the dark night, trying to see where the plane was. Walter, who worked in the tower, was chomping on an apple and acting as if nothing was wrong. He tried to make small talk with Joe, who was blatantly ignoring him.
"Helen, uh, I'm having a little trouble making you out. Can you wiggle your wings?"
"Well, I'm having a little trouble making you out, Joe, can you wiggle the tower!?" Helen was now becoming near hysterical, causing her southern accent to become even more pronounced.
"Boy, she's a little spitfire," Walter chuckled, taking another bite of his apple. Joe was concentrating on searching the night sky through his binoculars. Finally he spotted the blinking lights of his Cessna plane.
"Okay, I can see you. Now, uh, you're too high, maybe you should swing the plane around and come in again."
"Yeah, and maybe I should go out on the wing and do a little fan dance but I'm not gonna, Joe. I'm gonna land and I'm gonna land right now!"
Joe knew better than to argue when she was like this. "All right, reduce your speed by half. You're lined up perfectly with the runway. Now after I tell you to do something, you say check so I know you've done it, okay?"
Helen's voice sounded bravely through the crackling radio. "Okay."
"Okay, set the fuel selector to main tanks."
Quickly Helen scanned her eyes over the dashboard, muttering the instructions to herself. "...fuel selector...main tanks..." A small wave of relief trickled through her tense muscles when she found the dial and turned it. "Um, check."
"Good," said Joe. "Now, make sure that the auxiliary fuel pump is on. You remember where that is?"
Helen mentally searched through the pages and pages of boring notes that Joe had lectured about in the flight class, but she could not recollect anything. Fighting down panic, she managed to squeak out, "Um, no!"
Joe slammed his hands on the counter in frustration. "Helen, come on, we went over that in class this morning. Oh! Wait, that's right--you weren't in class this morning."
"All right, I don't have time for a lecture, Joe, just tell me where the damn thing is! Oh, I found it myself!" She added the latter in a prim, mocking voice that made her sound like an obstinate child. Joe had always found this peculiar quality of Helen's endearing, but he tried to push these thoughts from his mind as they threatened to arouse the lump of terror that was stirring within him. Visions of a crash flashed through his mind like an omen, and he was suddenly realizing that he was terrified of never getting the chance to hold her, to kiss her--to tell her that he loved her.
We're such wimps, he told himself. If he could get her down safely he was going to take her in his arms and kiss her with more passion and desperation than he had ever kissed anyone before. "If" he could get her down...He then remembered that Brian was up there too, and concern for his brother added to his already mounting anxieties.
All these thoughts were flashing in his mind, but again Joe had to force himself to concentrate on the immediate task at hand, which was getting Helen to land that plane.
"All right, Helen, set the fuel mixture to full rich."
"...fuel mix...to full rich. Check!"
"Throttle to idle, flaps to one-quarter."
There was a pause, then Helen said, "Check. Uh, I think that was one quarter. And I hope those were the flaps..."
Joe allowed himself to relax a little. Everything seemed to be going as planned so far; Helen was still over the runway and was nearly ready to touch down, and he had almost taken her through all the steps. "All right, lower your landing gear. And then, k-keep your wings straight. No, no, straight! Straight!"
He didn't get another response after that. The left wing had been steadily tilting downward, and apparently Helen had panicked, jerking the controls to the right and in the process rolling the entire body of the plane in the other direction. In the tower, Walter dropped his apple and ran up beside Joe as they both watched in horror at what happened next. The Cessna hit the runway on its wing, the pressure causing it to snap in two. The landing gear had never been lowered--the belly of the plane came down hard on the runway and bounced a few times, then slid along the ground, still moving at a very high speed. Suddenly it crashed hard into one of Aeromass' steel hangers, sending up flames and debris.
"No!" Joe screamed in shock. He bolted out of the tower and began sprinting down the runway toward the crash site. The fire trucks and emergency workers who were standing by were already at work, dousing the flames and working to retrieve the two still inside. The whole scene felt like a surreal vision. Two of the rescue workers held Joe back and wouldn't allow him to approach, so he was forced to stand back and watch.
A crowd of people from the airport was gathering around. Joe felt a hand enclose his and looked down to see Fay, trembling but struggling to put on a brave face for Joe. Lowell came up and patted him on the back.
"I have to admit this is probably the worst crash I've ever witnessed, though I've seen much worse on television. But don't you worry, Joe--I'm sure Brian and Helen will come out of this just fine." Joe sighed. Lowell had always had a knack for saying the wrong thing at the wrong time, but he tried to remind himself that Lowell meant well. Even Roy was there to lend his support, though he appeared to find speaking in a situation like this much too awkward.
Joe overheard one of the workers say that the hanger the plane had crashed into had been empty, which was fortunate. Minutes dragged by while Joe silently prayed for them to be all right. Helen and Brian were the two most important people in his life, and he couldn't bear to lose either of them. What was taking the rescue workers so long!?
Finally Joe caught sight of a stretcher being lowered out of the door of the plane. He pushed his way forward as they wheeled it toward a waiting ambulance, and found himself staring down at Helen. Her small frame was bruised and bloodied, but Joe slumped in relief when her half-closed eyes met his she smiled sheepishly at him. "I guess this means I failed your flight class," she whispered. "I'm so sorry about your plane."
"Screw the plane!" Joe said fervently, "I just want you safe in my arms again." He realized then what he said, but he didn't think Helen caught it. Her eyes closed and she mumbled something that Joe couldn't hear. He followed her, taking her hand and not daring to let go. They tried to make him leave, but Joe was becoming frantic and was afraid to let her out of his sight.
"She's okay, right!? Can you tell anything yet? How is she?"
"All her vital signs are stable," someone replied to Joe. "We're going to get her in quickly to get checked out and we really can't tell more than that right now, but judging outwardly her chances look pretty good."
"Thank God! Oh, thank you." Joe breathed a huge sigh, but he knew it would still be a long night. "I'll be right behind you, Helen," he said.
But any relief that Joe had received from the encouraging news was forgotten when he turned and saw the second stretcher being lowered. Frowning, Joe immediately turned his attention to Brian, who looked worse than Helen. His brother wasn't moving, and the paramedics were giving him oxygen.
Joe carefully laid a hand on his shoulder and leaned in close. "Brian. Brian, can you hear me?" But there was no response.
"Hey! Hey, is he all right?" Joe asked the paramedic anxiously.
An older, balding man interrogated him briskly. "Are you a relative?"
Joe could have strangled the man. "Yes! I'm his brother."
The man stopped suddenly and patted Joe quickly on the arm. "Didn't mean to sound rude, son. We're in the middle of a little crisis, you know."
"Really!? I hadn't noticed!" Joe screamed so loudly that a few policemen nearby looked ready to haul him away, but Joe stopped himself and waved apologetically to the rescue workers. "Sorry, now can you tell me what's going on?"
"He'd stopped breathing and he has extensive chest injuries, and we suspect some internal injuries. We're life-flighting him to Boston." With that the man hurried away with the crew and the ambulances sped away, leaving Joe stunned in disbelief.