The Boy Who Couldn't Fly can be found in






"SHE'S a Ross Comet Murph!" Dan Sutherland said. "Look at that wing dihedral and that split undercarriage."

They stood at the top of Frazer's Hill and watched the red monoplane go swooping over the town of Newton in the valley below. The April afternoon sun was strong and Dan shaded his face. His blue eyes sharpened with excitement.

Murph glanced uneasily at the intent face. "They all look alike to me," he said, shortly. "Come on, Dan. I've got a tennis date."

But Dan stayed where he was. Murph tried again. "Ah, let's go. That crate's beating it."

The red plane wasn't. It had flown the length of the town and was now coming back, skimming low over Main Street. Dan caught his breath as the Comet roared over the white bank building, barely fifty feet above its roof.

"I'll bet your Dad's loving that," Murph said.

Dan was thinking the same thing. He could visualize the effect the low flying was probably having on his father, the president of the bank. His dad had no sympathy with aviation. It was the one thing Dan could never understand about him.

"You fly?" his father had said the one time Dan spoke of it. There had been something like horror in his voice. "No! That's unthinkable, Daniel!"

His father hadn't said why, but his eyes had dropped to Dan's crippled right leg encased in its steel brace. And to Dan that glance had been full of meaning.

He'd wanted to cry out, "You don't understand, Dad. That's the very reason I want to fly. I haven't any freedom on the ground. People feel sorry for me. In a plane it'd be different. I'd be free as the wind."

But, Dan had said nothing. And from then on he'd kept his increasing interest in flying hidden from his father.

He knew he could never be a transport pilot. All he'd wanted was to hold an amateur license. And after that to enter aviation in some ground capacity where his crippled leg wouldn't be a handicap.

Dan had worn a brace on that leg as far back as he could remember. His father had told him he'd been hurt in an accident when he was very small, an accident that had killed his mother. But his dad wouldn't talk about it and no one in town volunteered information. The accident had occurred before the Sutherlands had come to Newton.

And now, as Dan gazed at the sleek monoplane scooting past the bank building he thought bitterly. In two years he'd graduate from senior high and then take the position in the bank that his dad had arranged for. All his life would be spent in that white building. There'd be no red monoplane for him—ever.

MURPH'S voice cut in, "Come on, come on," he said, gruffly.

"What's biting you, Murph?" Dan asked, his eyes never leaving the plane. "Look at that, will you!"

The Comet had suddenly zoomed and was now racing up, the sun polishing its wings to glistening vermilion. The roar of its engine became a whine. Dan judged it had reached six thousand feet when the ship leveled, humped over and dived. The wings flipped around slowly . . . once, twice. Now faster.

"Holy smoke!" Dan said. "A spin. Murph! A spin! He's aiming right at the school!"

The Ross Comet came plummeting down, wings whipping. Dan's long face whitened. Maybe the pilot wasn't stunting. The ship had already dropped two thousand feet without straightening. Maybe the pilot had lost control!

Color welled over Dan's high cheek bones. "Get her out of it! " He wasn't conscious that he was shouting. "Jam the stick forward! Give her opposite rudder and aileron. Hurry!"

As if the pilot had heard his words, the Comet's wings straightened. The machine bulletted down in a power dive. Then, the nose came up. The ship flattened and, with a bellow, careened away.

Dan blew out his breath. The guy was a swell pilot.

"Whew!" Murph gasped.

The monoplane streaked across the residential section, climbing. Dan saw it circle over the grounds of the Blackwell house.

"Maybe he's a friend of Jerry's," Dan said. Jerry Blackwell had been away to flying school the previous summer and had come back flaunting an amateur license.

"Naw," Murph said. "Jerry hasn't got a friend."

But, Dan thought, Jerry had plenty of friends even though he wasn't one of them. Jerry was the school's star athlete; he owned a fast roadster; he had lots of money and. . . . A sudden thought flared across Dan's mind. Jerry had boasted that his dad was going to buy him a plane. . . .

Dan turned to Murph. "Could that be Jerry's plane?"

Murph's full moon face flushed. "Well—yeah, that's right, Dan," he said.

"You knew it all the time?"

"I guess I did," Murph said miserably. "Jerry was spreading the word around after school that a Ross pilot was flying his crate down. Jerry had him primed to put on that stunt, looks like."

Dan said, "Oh," and turned away. "You could've told me, Murph."

"I didn't because . . ." Murph stumbled. "Ah, you know."

DAN shoved back a shock of blond hair that had fallen over his face. Distantly he realized that the Comet was now flying across the valley in the direction of the airport.

"It's going to land," Dan said. "I'm going over."

"Aw, nuts," Murph said. "Don't do that. You and Jerry . . ." He left the sentence hanging.

'Dan said, "I've got nothing against Jerry. And I want to see that plane."

Murph scowled. "You got nothing against that guy? How about your smashed model?"

Yes, how about it, Dan thought. That had been his first serious run-in with Jerry. There'd been others since. But that first time . . . It'd happened last summer at a local gas model meet. Dan had worked hard on his plane, had ...

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