• Member Since 9th Sep, 2012
  • offline last seen Last Friday

Featherprop


Just your average flying pony with a little more to carry than his own wings can handle

E

Updates Every Friday!

The Frostmane Territories is nothing like Equestria, and nothing seems to work the same way- it's wild, the seasons run on their own schedule, and the weather has a mind of it's own. Now an entire village has gone silent, and one pilot is tasked to get a doctor there to head off a looming disaster.

The terrain is fearsome, time is running out, and events past and present will challenge him when he has to make life-or-death decisions that will affect the lives of Ponies near and far. What will he do when the line between right and wrong is blurred?

Are there some mistakes you can never recover from?

Chapters (15)
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Comments ( 110 )

Pony bush pilots! I love it! You also really nailed the mood and atmosphere of the small Alaskan towns. To anyone skimming the comments I definitely recommend giving this a read

It has arrived! WOOT!

Love the world building, my man, though I still think that Pasture desrves to be dropkicked. I humbly volunteer.

Here via Cynewulf. The premise certainly has my attention …

4425753 Thanks!! I'm glad to hear I got the mood/feeling right- I like sleepy small towns like that.

There is more bushy piloty-ness to come, I promise you! Next chapter will drop on Friday.

4426104 He's hardly done anything yet!

At least wait until we see if he's a TOTAL bastard or not to get your foot warmed up. :rainbowlaugh:

4428770 Glad you like it so far! I hope upcoming twists will keep you interested. :twilightsheepish:

I'll be following this one. You're mixing together some interesting worldbuilding (seems to give a real sense of that Alaskan atmosphere, though I may have to run this by my wife for her opinion, since she worked at a Juneau newspaper for a few years) and nice OC development with the tension of the underlying mystery.

I'm starting to put enough pieces together to suspect that the missing plane was FP and Pasture's. It's probably premature to speculate on that mysterious light, though I am curious: does Frostmane have auroras? There's nothing about that one way or the other in the story.

Few quick typoes in the description to fix:
> the weather has a mind of its own
(In the short description:)
> Good intentions conflict with harsh reality

4428931 Thanks for the catches, I'll fix them post-haste.

As for the Lunar Lights auroras... New chapter posts on Friday. :scootangel:

I love this story. I've always liked man vx. nature types of stories, and this is giving me strong Jack London vibes, so that's a big plus.

I also have always liked 'man-dealing-with-technology' stories (if that isn't a thing, it should be), and this has got that, too.

In short, it's appearing to be a story of marginal, idiosyncratic technology meeting the full fury of nature--probably at the most inopportune time--and I love those kinds of stories.

To top it off, we've got two wonderful OCs here--Featherprop and Espresso--as well as a potential antagonist or ally in Pasture (who's way out of his league, but doesn't know it). All those things combined make for a great story.

Add in good pacing and suspense, and now we've really got something. I already have an idea where this is going to go, yet I also know that there are going to be unexpected plot twists along the way. I'm seeing a rip-roaring good time, with ponies pushed to the very edge, and I'm loving it.

4433919 I.... wow, thank you. :twilightsheepish: You've pegged a few themes I was playing with- pony vs. nature, pony vs. technology (a double-edged sword- it extends us, but when it fails we're at greater risk), As for the matchup... I think you'll like it. I hope my writing can keep up with the IDEA.

Have you ever encountered stories like that? Where there are errors and failings in the writing, but the quality of the ideas still makes them compelling? Sometimes I enjoy those even more, because of the challenge involved in grasping what the writer intends. What's hard won is often most valued.

And mosf of all, I am glad you're enjoying the characters I've created. I sort of bumped around with them, then found a good dynamic, and they really took off. There's another around the corner, too. Tomorrow. But yes, I loved creating their relationship. I thought it was a little creaky in this early part, but it gets smoother.

Anyway, I'm very glad you're enjoying it, and i promise there are some interesting quirks of tech, weather, and characters to come!

4433995

Have you ever encountered stories like that? Where there are errors and failings in the writing, but the quality of the ideas still makes them compelling?

Tystarr's A Voice Among the Strangers is a good example ... In the early chapters especially, the writing was not very good, but the story is compelling enough that I--and thousands of other readers--just read it anyway, and it was well worth it.

I personally am a very character-driven reader, so as long as I am interested in the characters, there's a good chance I'll keep reading, and you've got great characters here.

Yea, Featherprop has another one up! (starts reading)

Definitely something new and interesting. Tracking.

The entire pot? Oh man, I can't imagine he was able to keep that hidden for long. All she had to do was walk over to the pilots' lounge and find out who was vibrating.

Great to see this starting to explore the backstories of the characters. It's rare for all-OC fiction to feel so vibrant here; you've got a good thing going.

And, I'm no pilot, but sweet stars, 85 degrees? That doesn't sound like an airplane accident, that sounds like the hand of Faust swatting the plane out of the sky. Quick back-of-the-envelope math is that the plane's horizontal speed when it hit the ground was about 10mph, and even if the engines iced, it should have had plenty more glide than that. I think further accident reports will prove awfully interesting.

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All she had to do was walk over to the pilots' lounge and find out who was vibrating.

Given his usual level of caffeination, the fact that he's NOT trembling would tend to be evidence of guilt rather than innocence.

Quick back-of-the-envelope math is that the plane's horizontal speed when it hit the ground was about 10mph,

It's the forward speed that kills you, and gravity is giving an assist here as it goes nearly straight down. Basic rule of thumb with airplanes: If you hit the ground nose-high, your chances of survival are good; lots of structure to dissipate energy and the impact is spread over a longer period resulting in lower accelerations. If you hit nose first, though, it's bad.

I knew a student (not mine, thank God!) who tried to do an aileron roll on one of his early solo flights. Kid was in the Air Force's IFT program, thought he was hot stuff. Well, he panicked halfway through the roll, while inverted, and pulled (you need to PUSH to keep the nose above the horizon while upside down). When he got back to the hangar, he was shaking. He admitted that he'd pegged the airpspeed indicator, meaning at least 40-50kts over redline. Even worse, he'd started at only 1500ft up- his instructor eventually managed to drag out of him that he'd pulled out of the dive below the tops of the trees around him.

The mechanics went through the plane, but didn't find a thing wrong with the structure- no cracks, no popped rivets, no stretched wires, not even any oilcanned sheetmetal. I'm not bright enough to do the math to figure out how many G's he pulled, but Cessna earned my undying trust on that day, as well as many others.

I was surprised by some of the character background that sprang up; this is the first big creative writing project I've ever done, and I really enjoyed trying to mold the little details that popped into my head into story elements. I'm doubly glad to hear that some of them work! :yay:

4475791
By horizontal speed I mean the horizontal component of the plane's speed vector relative to the ground, which is the part that keeps it in the air (airflow under the wings). The vertical component is what introduced them to the topsoil, and would have been terminal velocity (in both senses of the word). You're talking about forward speed, which is relative to the plane; I'm thinking like a mathematician (which I am) and talking about an objective frame of reference.

Point is, if you're flying with a destination rather than stunt-flying, as I hope our victims were, you're doing so at a pretty good horizontal clip — and if you can keep the plane level, even without engines, that speed doesn't just disappear; that momentum sticks around and gives you a glide path to the ground. To be going so straight downward takes effort.

4475888

By horizontal speed I mean the horizontal component of the plane's speed vector relative to the ground, which is the part that keeps it in the air (airflow under the wings)

*puts on his instructor cap* Well... *takes it back off* That's too much thinking when I'm full of brisket and beer. Aerodynamics gets really complicated, and that's even before you let a pilot start yanking and banking.

But yeah, if you're going vertical, you've done something very wrong. :rainbowderp:

4475791

The mechanics went through the plane, but didn't find a thing wrong with the structure- no cracks, no popped rivets, no stretched wires, not even any oilcanned sheetmetal. I'm not bright enough to do the math to figure out how many G's he pulled, but Cessna earned my undying trust on that day, as well as many others.

If you're not familiar with it, a hijacking aboard a Fed Ex flight was foiled because the pilots did things the plane wasn't meant to do to keep the hijacker off-balance. It turns out you can fly a DC-10 like a fighter jet.

4512030

Actually, I'm quite familiar with that incident, and it was a great bit of piloting. That incident rocked FedEx's community, because it was one of their own.

I honestly wish that tactics like that had been used in 2001- zero-g or even mildnegative-g maneuvers can quickly break up any organized effort- pax that are belted in won't be affected besides airsickness if you don't push too hard. However, standard practice was to comply, because no hijackers had used an entire aircraft as a weapon.

I'm finishing the next chapter now, A-Kon chewed me up.

4523328

However, standard practice was to comply, because no hijackers had used an entire aircraft as a weapon.

Not in the US, anyway. I think it had been done before somewhere in the world, though, but I'm not 100% certain.

4523836 Now I've got to look into that. Nothing comes directly to mind, but there have been a few fanatical groups that easily could have done that. And of course, there's the guy who crashed a Dakota (Piper, not Douglas!) into the IRS office in 2010.

Perhaps a pernicious pegasus pony pun, "inflewenza" :twilightsmile:

Featherprop's at least got one thing going for him: as long as he bails out before the plane augers into a mountain, he can probably glide to safety. Pasture's not so fortunate....

Trundled this onto my kindle and started reading it, and let me say...

I grew up in Alaska, and you're definitely hitting some of my nostalgia triggers quite well. You're capturing the roughness of the characters and personalities that live there (I just finished the segment where Feather is regailing Pasture with all the nicknames Espresso has given him over the years and seeing nothing out of the ordinary).

Plus, I can't help but read the chapter headings in the same tone and voice as the old Coast Guard marine alert broadcasts. I grew up hearing those.

Good work. You have already grabbed a spot in my faves, and a recommendation.

Edit: the writing is good too, no worries!

Further edit: Fairflanks is simple brilliance, BTW.

4558208

Hey, thanks for the fave and the watch! It's great to hear that I'm getting the character elements right!

The interactions were some of my favorite parts to write- I've known and worked with some folks like that, and it got to be fun. There's more to come, I promise!

Interesting that the headers come through as an automated broadcast- that hadn't occurred tome, but it definitely fits.

And I'm just getting warmed up on the ponifications....

One of my favorite chapters. I still maintain that a merc weather team would be sweet.

Quick non-aviator, mathematician question: does their plane still have a functioning compass? I mean, they don't know where they are, but they know their current bearing and where they've been, right? Because it seems to me that the smart solution is to call off the mission, swing around 180 degrees, and stay on that heading until they pick the signal back up from the airfield they left.

4577288

Because it seems to me that the smart solution is to call off the mission, swing around 180 degrees, and stay on that heading until they pick the signal back up from the airfield they left.

Good question. Under certain circumstances, that would be the best option. If you catch it right away, it's absolutely the right thing to do. The reason he doesn't do it here is a combination of two factors: First, he doesn't know how long they've been flying without guidance, and second he doesn't have accurate information on the winds aloft. Unlike us, today, where a radiotheodolite tracks a weather balloon as it ascends and measures velocities at different altitudes, all Featherprop has to go on is estimations. Without an accurate wind velocity, he can't figure what his lateral drift or distance. They might have been flying at half again their normal cruise speed, or facing a headwind that halved it, or a crosswind that's pushed them miles sideways.

The 'five-figure' number he sees on the chart is the equivalent of our modern Minimum Off-Route Altitude- an altitude at which you will safely clear all obstacles within a particular map quadrant.

Without knowing his location, the safest thing to do is immediately climb- turning would carry him over a wider ground track at a potentially unsafe altitude. Climbing while turning is less effective, because some of your lift vector is being used to turn, so you're reducing your rate of climb and increasing your stall speed. An immediate climb at Vx (max angle of climb) is the safest option.

As for calling it off... it's easy to get caught up and lose your perspective. That, and fear is often a strong motivator.

4577697
I figured there was a good answer behind his decision that I just hadn't quite picked up on. Thanks!

Will be awaiting this week's installment!

4577931

Will be awaiting this week's installment!

No pressure, eh? :rainbowderp: I'm working on it, I am!

On the read later list! I had no idea you were working on a fic, Feather!

Nice. The communications log was a brilliant hook. It set the plot rolling like a snowball, built tension effectively, and gave the story a sense of legitimacy that frames the world-building and makes it that much more believable.

Hopefully, in the wintry lands you're introducing us to, that snowball is going to pick up a lot of mass and momentum. :pinkiesmile:

I like the pacing. There are plenty of juicy tidbits, but they're flesh on the bones of what is, so far, a pretty tight story.

However, the perspective shifts going on are confusing. At times it feels like you're going for third person limited, showing us events seen through the tint of one character's POV; while at other times it feels like third person omniscient. If it were one or the other, it would work fine, but when I'm getting involved in Espresso's narrative voice, it's jarring for the good doctor's to break in for a moment, then revert back to Espresso's.

Other than that, I found a few formatting errors:

"into a satisfied smile as he quaffed the brew, ears drooping to the side in pleasure.
Unaware of his coworker’s rare charitable thoughts"
~ No extra line between paragraphs.

"He gave a test sniffle."
~ An extra line between paragraphs.

And there was also a slight hiccup with an extra definite article thrown in here:
"Look, the billing address is just 'The Royal Palace,' not the any of the Ministries."

Other than that, it was pretty durn good. I gotta say, I loved this sentence in particular:

"He glides across the domed top of an anvil and flares his wings, turning tightly and looking back to watch the tip vortices pull scrolls of white vapor away from the surface of the cloud."

The image of his passage pulling scrolls of vapour from the clouds is a fantastic one.

4582142 Oh yes, I've got a few things up on FimFic, though most of them center around this headcanon-y outland. I've been working on it for, geez, since before we met up at EFNW last year. It's been a long, slow process. I've just been reluctant to spam a lot of friends with it, beyond the ones who showed heavy interest in it while I was writing.

When you get to it, I hope you enjoy it!

4583641 Thank you very much for the critique! I'm very glad to hear that you're enjoying the basics of the story, especially about the pacing-- I've been worrying about that all along.

I'll get the formatting errors fixed up quickly; I thought I had fixed them as I transferred over from Gdocs.

At times it feels like you're going for third person limited, showing us events seen through the tint of one character's POV; while at other times it feels like third person omniscient.

I hope that some of the choppiness is due to my relative inexperience during the early chapters, and that the flow will improve as we move along.

If it were one or the other, it would work fine, but when I'm getting involved in Espresso's narrative voice, it's jarring for the good doctor's to break in for a moment, then revert back to Espresso's.

... oh dear. I have to admit that I've depended on switching back and forth a lot to try and get away from perfect omniscience and provide different viewpoints. I tend to be very literal and linear, so I worry about having to jump forwards and back in the middle of a scene. I can see how it could get tiresome. Please forgive me, and I hope it improves for you. There's a huge gap between the first three-four chapters and when the last three-four were written.

And I promise there's more to come!

4567355

I still maintain that a merc weather team would be sweet.

Don't think I haven't wondered about what sort of stories you could tell.

It'd be cool if someone wrote about them...

4577697

Was just reading through the comments and 4577288's comment caught my eye. I happened to know about the unknown drift (more from boating than airplaning), but it's a reasonable guess that others of your readers might not, and you might get into a situation in the future where something well-known to pilots will fall upon the deaf eyes of your readers. Thus, it might behoove you to ask yourself if a non-pilot would know about what you're saying, and if not, put in a bit of explanatory text.

Part of the reason this is fresh in my mind is because in the most recent chapter of one of my stories, I had a pegasus explain malformed clouds as having 'inclusions,' with no further explanation. I know what it means; I've worked in enough factories. One of my pre-readers didn't, and now the character says it, and then explains it. So you could do something as simple as this: I should reverse course, Featherbrain thought. But there's no way to know how far the wind's pushed me off-course, so I'll never get an accurate bearing back to the airport, and if they're clouded over, I'll never find them.

I've heard that there are no old, bold pilots.

Also, there's an old saying among railroaders that the rulebooks are written in blood*, since every rule in the book is the result of a fatality.

Sometimes I'd get impatient while my brother pre-flighted his plane, but I kept my mouth shut because I knew from reading his copies of Flying magazine that there was no substitute to doing it right ever single time. Some of that has even percolated through my thick skull at work: I once called a customer and asked him to bring his car back beacuse I couldn't remember if I'd torqued the wheels. I was pretty sure that I had, but there was a nagging doubt that I'd forgotten after I had to answer a phone call.

I don't think pilots are alone in the harsh criticism of their fellows department. Heaven only knows that most drivers think they're above average. I think I'm an exception to that rule; I have a very good safety record while driving because I know I'm a bad driver. :derpytongue2: That, and I generally plan in advance for things going wrong.


*if a straight-up pony-vs.-machine story set in the steam railroad age is something you'd be interested in, you may want to give The Descendant's The Railway Ponies: Highball a look.


4605272

Thus, it might behoove you to ask yourself if a non-pilot would know about what you're saying, and if not, put in a bit of explanatory text.

Yeah, this was an aspect I went back and forth on. My early chapters had all sorts of technical stuff, but then I figured it would be boring for people who don't have a thing for tech. I tried to split the difference, because at it's heart this story is driven by technology, but I don't want it to be focused on it. I'd had something typed up, but it felt too exposition-y right there. I thought that the idea of being lost and having no guidance would stand on it's own.

All is not lost, though! The explanation ends up partway through the next chapter. I ended up splitting a huge one into three, and the text that kind of covers your suggestion ended up on the other side... which will be coming out tomorrow in a little bit. Well, here's a snippet:

Discord’s horns! He blanched as the magnitude of their drift became apparent. Luna, the forecasts were all wrong... we must be thirty miles past the airway from Sheltie’s! The winds had pushed them far north and west of Sheltie’s Meadow, and Featherprop shuddered as he thought of just how close they must have come to the Frostmane’s frozen teeth while in the clouds. Hoofing up a pencil, he marked a general location on the chart, then showed it to the Unicorn next to him. “There, we’re in there.”

4605350

Yeah, I always make a scan for tools and parts before I put the hood down and try to run a checklist on everything I've touched. I've never destroyed anything, but there was one time I had to take a VW transmission back out after finding a new shaft seal on the bench.

There's a lot of truth to that railroad saying. What I've noticed in aviation culture is that there's a bit of a fascination with accidents, and at the same time a sort of standoffish attitude towards them that I think stems from the military orgins of the culture-- the Escadrilles in WWI and the dashing image of the fighter pilot from WWII. It's a defense mechanism- even with black boxes, we don't know WHY people make the mistakes they do, and that's disturbing. If someone you think is a good stick can muck it up, then why can't you?

I tell you, there's few things harder to force yourself to do than pre/postflight in the rain. It's hard to force yourself to check everything all the time, and not just because of laziness- when you fly the same plane day in, day out, you feel like you've seen it all.

Sometimes the really obvious stuff just goes right over your head. I've jumped more than one set of chocks, and blown a fair bit of paperwork off the back of one wing. But one thing I do every time, EVERY time, is walk (run) around the nose to look for stuff in front of the plane-- I know more than one pilot who's been fired after chopping up a cone.

And I'm TOTALLY going to check out the railway story, thanks for the recommendation!

The news reports make it seem pretty darn inescapable...

Still I am hoping that somehow things work out better than I think they will.
I think I might be more keyed up right now than Espresso.

I am trying to take comfort in the fact that Kathia Station has yet to appear in the narrative, and that no mention was made of bodies being found, only "it was determined there were no survivors." I am really hoping that they had enough time to bail, somehow. He is a pegasus, and seems to know his craft. How far into being an unrecoverable situation would it have to go before he would realize it? Long enough? I am hoping so.

4619381

I'm glad you're finding the story exciting! I could say something... but it'd be unfair, wouldn't it? There might be a few overlooked clues in some of those reports- that's about all I can say. That, and look for the next chapter in a few days.

Speaking of which, I just did a quick check of the next chapter, and found this:

He weighed assumptions and expectations in his mind, hoping that the scales would tip towards diverting to Kathia before they were committed.

Really wanting to smack Pasture upside the head

4661274 That was the reaction I got from most of my pre-readers, too. I wanted to give him some balance, so he wouldn't be just a boring, out-and-out evil character, but maybe I made him a little too mean...

I don't see him as evil, just Canterlot clueless. No doubt he's a competent and dedicated doctor, but he is completely out of his element. I'm hoping it doesn't get them both killed.

Good fiction does not only improve one's English, but it also imparts knowledge and makes the mind tick.

Good read. Liked and faved.


And speaking of Pasture, I'm agreeing with j-grizz on the fact that he is clueless. He's practically the archtypical upper-class stallion - no, colt even. But it's believable just because of that. As long as it makes the story work, it's alright.


And speaking of them getting killed, you should have figured that out by the first few chapters. Then again... *mysteriously* Will they get killed?(Hurry up with that next chapter will ya ;))

4685128 Shoot, if everyone figured it out by the first few chapters, I didn't do a very good job, did I?

Speaking of which, which way do you guess? I... well, it's not that I'd have any revisions to do, per se, but...

Anyway, I'm glad you're enjoying it! Next chapter will be up on Friday, shouldn't be a problem unless I find another body part to lacerate and glue up!

4685482

Shoot, if everyone figured it out by the first few chapters, I didn't do a very good job, did I?

Read A Flock of Ships by Brian Callison (if you can find a copy; it's kind of obscure). The very first chapter tells you exactly how the story ends, and the rest of the novel is how it got to that point.

Because a story is more about the journey than the ending.

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