The Jet Who Wouldn't Fly by Gene Twaronite
Illustrated by Rosemarie Gillen
Once there lived a little jet named Fleet. Born in a good factory, he was as fine a jet as could be. His engines roared like a hundred jumbo lions and his seats were as soft as feather beds. With his blue nose cone and tail tip and sleek shiny body, he was always ready to go … if only he didn’t have to fly.
It wasn’t that Fleet couldn’t fly. He was a robot jet, the first in his class at Jet School, where he had learned how to fly without a pilot. But what if he forgot how? What if he fell?
Passengers with their luggage still boarded Fleet, expecting to be taken to other airports. But Fleet would just taxi down one runway after another, sometimes for several hours, and then bring them back to the same gate.
People were beginning to talk. Then, one morning, the manager of the airport, Mr. Wingtip, came to see Fleet in his hangar. He did not look pleased.
"You have a flight to Los Angeles in exactly one hour," said Mr. Wingtip in a stern voice. “Your job is to take passengers from one airport to another. I expect you to bring them there."
Fleet had no choice. So this time, after the passengers had all boarded, he taxied down Runway Six, then took a right on Runway Thirteen. But instead of flying, he headed for the exit ramp to the freeway and just kept on taxiing south to Los Angeles.
People waved and tooted their horns as they passed him on the freeway. Most of the time, Fleet stayed in the far right lane for slower moving vehicles. He made sure that his passengers got plenty of meals. Then he fueled up and headed the same way back to San Francisco. Everyone agreed it was the smoothest flight they had ever had.
The next morning, Mr. Wingtip again came to see Fleet. The airport manager's face was bright red as he jumped up and down, waving his fists in the air.
"I meant fly!" he shouted. "Fly or you're fired!"
Fleet was scheduled for a flight the very next morning. For a while he thought about just running away and taxiing back home to the factory where he was born. But he knew there was no going back.
Fleet couldn't sleep a wink. All night long, he tossed and turned in his hangar. Just thinking about flying made him sweat and tremble all over.
Just before dawn, Fleet taxied slowly out of his hangar and headed for the gate. He still didn’t know what to do. But at that very moment a small bird fell from the sky directly on top of Fleet's nose cone. For a long time she just lay there, with her eyes closed. Then, finally, he saw her tiny
chest moving up and down, just barely. Slowly the swallow opened her eyes and looked
at Fleet. "Where am I?" she said, in a weak, chirpy voice.
"You're in San Francisco," said Fleet. "And you've just had quite a fall. Rest for a while on my nose."
"San Francisco?" screamed the swallow. "But that can't be! I'm supposed to be in Capistrano."
"Don't worry,” said Fleet. Capistrano's not that far. I can drop you off."
"Oh, thank you!" said the swallow. "For I just have to get back there this morning or I'll never get a nesting spot."
"Well, I don't know if we'll make it this morning," said Fleet, "but I'll get you there as soon as I can." And he began to taxi as fast as he could toward the gate.
After the passengers had all boarded, Fleet kept right on taxiing out onto the freeway. The swallow scratched her head. "I don't get it," she said. "When are you going to start flying?"
So, while Fleet taxied, he told her all about his fear. For a while the swallow said nothing.
Then she spoke softly but firmly. "You are a jet, a fine jet, and like an eagle or a swallow you were born to fly. Everyone is afraid, sometimes, but you can’t let it keep you down. I have an idea. What if I go with you? Since the other birds have left me, we can look out for each other. And you can get me on time to Capistrano.
Fleet was still afraid. But to think he would never fly again - never sail over the great white sea of clouds or feel the sweet rush of air against his body - that was even worse. So he decided to trust his new friend. After all, she needed help as much as he did.
Fleet returned to the airport and, with wobbling wheels, slowly taxied out onto the runway. He trembled so hard that most of the passengers were already airsick. Perched inside, the swallow sang an encouraging song. And then as Fleet took a great gulp of air through his engines and felt the power surge within him, he hurled himself up, up and away into the deep blue sky.
For the first few minutes Fleet forgot all about his fear as he roared through the clouds with joy. But then he saw a big black thunder cloud. Suddenly a strong downdraft pushed down on his wings. What should he do? He looked over at the swallow, who quickly tilted her wings to the right and then pointed straight up. Fleet understood perfectly. And he knew what to do from his Jet School training. He banked sharply upward to the right, then leveled off into the calmer air above the storm. He did it so smoothly that none of the passengers even noticed. And, as the San Diego airport came into view, Fleet breathed a deep sigh of relief.
The swallow thanked Fleet and congratulated him on a fine flight. Then she flew off to find a nesting spot.
From that day forward Fleet was no longer afraid to fly, and made many safe trips all over the world. And on board every trip, perched in his heart, the swallow flew with him.
Author Bio: Author:Gene Twaronite’s fiction has been published by Highlights for Children, Read, and Heinemann, and is also the author of the middle grade novel The Family That Wasn't.
Illustrator Bio: Rosemarie Gillen has been a professional illustrator of Picture Books since 2005. She is a self taught artist who is happiest when painting. She has won several awards and her work has been published both traditionally and online. She specializes in enhancing children's books with her unique style of illustrations. www.rosemariegillen.com