Janusz Meissner

Photo courtesy of the National Digital Archives.

Janusz Meissner

The Recollections of a Pilot

Read by Marta Meissner, recorded by Radiofonia Association.
English translation: Jacek Krawczyk

Stop staring! After all, it’s me who’s at the controls! Me alone! How many times have I dreamed of this moment! And now I’m actually flying. I can maintain the aircraft’s balance, control it in space, take off, and land!

Land? We’ll see about that one. Now I’ve got to make a turn.

Move the yoke slightly outwards, but only so much that the hood of the engine aligns with the horizon, gently turn the controls to the right, and now, when the machine is banked on its right side, even out the controls and gently push the plane down.

It’s turning! Keep an eye on the hood, the speed, and the direction! As soon as the village of Bieńczyce appears right in front of me, I level the Brandenburg and lower the engine’s revs. I can already see the road and train tracks between Bieńczyce and Krzesławice. I fly over the tracks, make a 90-degree turn to the right and then another one. Behind me is the village of Mogiła; diagonally to the left – a bend in the Vistula river; farther behind – Kraków; straight ahead – the airport. Isn’t it a bit too soon to get off the accelerator? The altimeter indicates 200 meters. I wait until the lower left part of the wing passes over the village of Czyżyny.

Now that the engine slightly dies down, I can hear the air humming and whooshing around me, and see the earth flowing, approaching me, growing… I pass the eastern boundary of the airport at an altitude of 50 meters. Always look far ahead! Don’t fix your eyes on any objects! Start pushing down as soon as the surface of the airport finds itself a meter lower than when the plane is standing on it.

I think this is it! I gently pull on the yoke and watch as the pitch between the wings and the moving surface of the airport decreases, as the plane flies parallel to the tarmac, as it slows down and settles, and as the firm stream of air weakens, becoming soft and marshy.

This is the point when you need to pull on the controls as hard as you can. Pull and hold. If you estimated the speed and the distance correctly, the landing gear and rear runner will touch the ground softly, and the plane will end the landing in a straight roll-out.

It’s rolling! I barely felt the plane touch down just as I can barely believe that it was I who has accomplished this incredible feat. Ah, life is beautiful and the world is great – far greater than all the trousers sewn by Tipografczyk!

English translation: Jacek Krawczyk

Janusz Meissner

(1901-1978) Polish writer and pilot, captain of Polish Armed Forces.

As a teenager, he was a member of underground independence organisations, for which he was arrested and spent a short time in Warsaw Citadel. From 1918, he served Polish Armed Forces, at first as mechanical engineer, then as pilot. He completed pilot training at such schools as Krakow Lower Pilot School (Niższa Szkoła Pilotów) and others. He took part in combats of the Polish-Soviet War in 1920 and in the Third Silesian Uprising in 1921. In the 1930s, he was aid-de-camp of the Second Regiment of Polish Air Force in Krakow.

At the end of July 1939, he went into retirement, but after one month he was mobilized again. He evacuated via Romania and France to Great Britain. He worked there as columnist and founded a satiric magazine Polski Spitfire. He accompanied Polish soldiers in combat flights as a correspondent. In 1946, he returned to Poland and, from 1956 till his death, he lived in Krakow.

Meissner debuted as a writer in 1926. He wrote novels, short stories and radio programmes. He published 48 books in total. The best known are: Szkoła orląt (School of Eagles) of 1929 and L jak Lucy of 1945 (published in English as L for Lucy under the pen name Flight-Lieutenant Herbert). His writings are devoted to flying, marines and sport. He was also a co-author of film scripts and three of his novels (Skarb kapitana Martensa, Sprawa pilota Maresza, Wraki) were made into films. (mj)

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