'At Least' by Matthew Willis

The pilots nod and smile to the non-pilots, and try to hide what’s really in their eyes.

At least he was busy. At least he didn’t have time to consider the future intersection of trajectory and the other thing. He’d have been going through a checklist. Centre controls. Throttle closed. Opposite rudder. Stick forward.

At least those things, before...

‘Let me tell you about the first time I met Gerry. It was on the set of Von Richthofen and Brown, you know...’

Control not restored. Opposite aileron. Push the stick hard forward.

‘At least...’

Throttle open. Reverse aileron. Don’t say it.

‘At least...’

Do not attempt flick manoeuvres in this aeroplane. At α angle over δ speed airflow detaches from wing surface. Wing may drop sharply either to the right or the left. If aeroplane enters spin, follow standard recovery procedure. Here’s the hearse. Don’t say-

‘At least he was...’

Spin tends to be flat and the tail can be blanketed by the fuselage. Keep trying. Spin may tighten if recovery is not effected within two turns. Whatever you do, keep trying. Jesus, how much height have we got? Started at two thousand. How much height? Must be at least-’

At least.

‘...He was doing something he loved.’


  1. I was in a blind panic reading this. Excellent piece.

  2. Perfect balance with the technical stuff. Cleverly done.

  3. Ah, this is just great. There's such a big story in here.

  4. Sort of poignant, with the dying interwoven with him acting. Good use of more than one stream.

  5. Excellent. Heart in mouth and a killer last line that had been well built up.


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