Thunderbirds: The Falling Star – A Gerry Anderson A21 News Story

The torrential rain continued to hammer the huge windows of Edinburgh Airport’s control tower and Chief Controller Argyll’s jaw tightened as she peered at the concrete apron outside.

The visibility had worsened considerably in the last few minutes and she could no longer make out the shape of the huge green International Rescue aircraft that she knew was sitting a short distance away.

Somewhere in the shapeless dark grey mass of the sky above, she also knew that the Star One airliner would be making its descent and that the attempts to repair the landing gear fault had failed. 

She turned back towards the centre of the room where Scott Tracy sat at his Mobile Control console.

“Are you sure you can pull this off?” she asked, not allowing the unease she felt to dent her professional composure, “There are nearly 300 people up there relying on you.”

Scott studied the indicators on his console, then met the Controller’s eyes and replied, “International Rescue hasn’t failed yet. We’ll do our best, but I’d be lying if I said it was going to be easy.”

There was a crackle of static from the speaker grill and Virgil’s voice came through clearly, “Mobile Control from Thunderbird 2 – in position at end of Runway 2-4.”

“FAB, Virgil. Star One on final approach. How’s it look on your side?”

“Pretty bad. Visibility’s down to a few yards. Surface water could be a problem too. We’re going to be doing this more or less blind.”

“Understood,” Scott replied, “But we’ve no choice. It’s the same situation across the whole country, and they don’t have enough fuel to divert safely at this point anyway. Get that guidance beam switched on.”

“FAB,” Virgil responded and set the appropriate switch on his control bank.

There was a confirmation bleep as the invisible guidance beam was projected from the Master Elevator Car. Even in the midst of the appalling weather, the signal would be picked up by the automated landing computer on Star One and in theory it should aid the landing process.

Virgil waited for Scott’s next instruction. His fingers drummed idly on the starboard control wheel as the sound of the rain thundered off the transparent canopy of the vehicle.

“Mobile Control to Thunderbird 2 – Star One on glide-path, one mile to threshold. Start tracking!”

“Mobile Control – FAB!” 

The Master Elevator Car’s engine roared as Virgil applied the throttle. Although he couldn’t see them, he knew that on either side of his own machine, Radio Controlled Elevators 2 and 3 had begun to move too. The three flat-roofed vehicles maintained a triangular formation as they started to race along the runway, sending up clouds of water spray from their rapidly spinning wheels.

“Increase to 0-9-5,” Scott’s voice from the radio was calm and level and Virgil acknowledged and complied.

A trickle of sweat ran down Virgil’s forehead as his eyes darted to the instrument panel. Visibility was as bad as ever, there was nothing outside his window but a bright grey haze and the vague impression of the edge of the runway on either side.

Trusting the radar-assisted steering to keep him in the correct line, Virgil watched the numbers on the proximity detector.

Star One was approaching, and it appeared to be on the correct descent path. The proximity indicator read 50 feet and it was decreasing smoothly.

When the reading got to 10 feet, Virgil radioed an instruction to the Star One pilot.

“Star One from Thunderbird 2, prepare for capture!”

“Roger!” The pilot’s voice came back promptly.

Virgil flipped the switch to magnetise the receiving pads on the roof of the machines.

5 feet to go.

He could make out the dark shape of the forward fuselage hovering above and ahead of him as all four craft continued apace.

3 feet… 2 feet… 1 foot…

There was a dull thud as the airliner finally rested on the three Elevator Cars.

“Star One, reverse thrust and brace for deceleration!” Virgil commanded.

The pilot acknowledged and Virgil applied the brakes. In his mind’s-eye he remembered what had happened with Fireflash. He could almost hear the awful screeching of tortured tyres, smell the acrid scent of burning rubber and feel the jolt as the Master Elevator Car broke free and flipped over.

The memory lasted only a second. He knew Star One was a much smaller and lighter aircraft, yet the rescue conditions were much worse this time.

He checked his speed. They were slowing.

Abruptly, Scott’s voice broke in over the radio, “Mobile Control to Thunderbird 2 – You’re running out of runway!”

“FAB – applying maximum brakes!” Virgil responded as he fought to bring the vehicles to a controlled stop.

And then his fears were realised. The trailing Elevator Cars and the rear of Star One began to slew to starboard on the slippery surface of the runway.

Instantly Virgil’s right hand dropped to a red control lever. He pulled it back two notches.

Suddenly, there was a terrific shower of sparks and flame from the front of Elevator Car 3 as the emergency retro brakes were fired.

The rapid deceleration on that side began to correct the slew.

They were still slowing, but would it be enough to save them?

Virgil looked at the instruments. They would reach the end of the runway in ten seconds, but he estimated they needed another twenty to stop.

He spoke rapidly into the radio, “Star One – Brace! Brace! Brace!” He pulled the central emergency retros lever.

This time, flames blazed from the front of all three Elevator Cars at once. 

Virgil gritted his teeth. There were only a few feet to go.

Then, as the front tyres of the Master Elevator car rolled off the end of the runway, the whole group of machines came to a stop.

Virgil sighed deeply, then spoke towards the radio, “Mobile Control from Thunderbird 2 – Mission accomplished. You can send the emergency crews in to offload the passengers.”

The delight was evident in Scott’s reply, “FAB! Great work out there! Hope you managed to stay right-side-up this time!”

Virgil grinned as he looked out of the canopy at the shapeless grey fog, “Well I think so, but in this weather who can be sure?”


Written by
Andrew Clements

A writer, film maker and self confessed Gerry Anderson fanatic. Free to good home.

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