The leg from Alpine, Texas to Kingsville added 380 nautical miles to Don’s flight. 130 nautical miles due east, then another 250 nautical miles to the southeast to the airfield south of Corpus. The jog was necessary to stay out of Mexican airspace.
Don flew that leg deadhead. He had dropped off his “friends” at Alpine and spent the night there. They had a compound somewhere in the area and they were joining with those who were already there.
Alpine would not have been Don’s first choice for a bug-out location but he was not paid to give advice. He was paid to fly from the greater Chicago metropolitan area to Alpine, Texas and to keep his mouth shut. He assumed his passengers had roots in the area. He wished them no ill-will.
He picked the couple up at a heavily guarded airstrip outside of Kankakee, Illinois. It had been a 12 hour trip with stops at air-fields near Springfield, Missouri that catered to very high-end executives and a second stop at Abilene, Tx.
The Cessna 206 had long legs and he could have pushed it but he liked the idea of having enough fuel to make several alternative fields if the primary field was compromised.
That conservative approach was validated when his primary field near Wichita Falls was scrubbed due to wind-gusts approaching 35 miles per hour. The field in Abilene was oriented differently and he could land into a head-wind.
Don did a low level pass over the field near Corpus and looked for broken glass and cacti. Not seeing any issues, he lined up and landed on the grass strip. His contacts were waiting for him and it took only a minute to load the “cargo”.
Don was expecting a five gallon bucket with a manifest weight of 60 pounds. They also handed over a thirty pound block of unprocessed gum rubber and plastic bags of additives. Don tucked the printed information into the plane’s header console and oversaw the refueling.
Don saw this coming from a long time ago. He had an experimental aeronotical, diesel engine retrofitted into his plane. Battle Creek, Michigan has a lot of high-end mechanics who were willing to swap the engine and make the other, needed changes. For example, a cable to heat the fuel line. It gets cold at elevation even in the summer.
Av-gas is expensive and not readily available and the 206 guzzled fuel. Diesel, on the other hand, was everywhere. The quality isn’t always the greatest but Don had a large “fuel conditioner” to strip out the water and biological scum. He was also religious about adding a lubricity enhancer to every tank of fuel.
Don’s plan was to spend the night near Springfield, Missouri. He was fifteen miles north of Kingsville flying at 500 feet, high enough to not have to worry about the wind-turbines that littered the flat, coastal plain but low enough to not be an issue for jets coming out of CRP ir NAS-Kingsville when movement out of his right windscreen caught his attention. The base of one of the tall towers at a local oil refinery was blooming outward. It appeared to be a fuzzy, white ball.
Then the mist bloomed to flame and Don, knowing that a shock-wave was likely to follow, turned tail and ran. As he dropped his nose he saw contrails streaking toward other refineries. Mentally, he registered groups of three contrails per vector.
On the ground it was chaos. The missile had hit the bottom of the fractionating column. The mechanicals of the missile were virtually identical to those of the fifty year-old Exocet anti-ship missile. In fact, the mechanicals were less advanced. They used smaller fewer premium materials and slightly less efficient propellant. Since it was reverse engineered, it was a bargain at $150k per copy.
The huge advance was that it was child’s play to program these missiles. The aspiring terrorist simply connect to his smartphone with WIFI. He pulled up a popular mapping app, zoomed in and tapped the intended target. Then he had the option of identifying the type of target.
Since these missiles had been designed and manufactured in the eastern Mediterranean, oil refineries were of the targets on the pull-down menu.
If launched within 40 km of the target, the missile used GPS technology to find and map the optimum path to the target and optical and IR imaging to select where refinery was most vulnerable to damage.
For that class of target, the 300 pound warhead was programmed to detonate 3m after impacting. The high aluminum flake content of the propellant guaranteed ignition of the expanding ball of petroleum vapors. The high aluminum content also made it easy to see the contrail from the air as they streaked over the freshly worked fields destined to be planted to sorghum and soybeans.
Shock-waves dissipate proportional to 1/R^2. Shock waves travel at Mach 1.0 and Don’s plane was only capable of 0.25 Mach but every inch is your friend. His plane was was severely buffeted by the passing shock-wave but the the wave had dissipated enough that his plane did not suffer any structural damage.
Looking back, Don could see the contrails led back to rest-area beside an Interstate 69-E. The entire eastern horizon was a specter of fire and smoke and soot. It was gazing into the forges of hell.
Don cranked up the throttles of the plane and pushed north. Optimizing for fuel economy was not an issue since he was not carrying 1000 pounds of passengers and their gear.
Black columns of smoke stretched to the horizon until after he cleared Tulsa.
Gaia Liberation Front had grown fangs.
*A huge tip-of-the-hat to Mr. B (a fellow blogger) who did his best to keep me from spewing nonsense when writing about pilots and planes. All errors are mine.