Clipped Wings – 59

Written by: Stephen Zito; Watch Now: – Sorry, not available on Amazon

Lt Mark Gordon, an F14D pilot from the Coral Sea, struck a civilian helicopter in Milan Italy during NATO radar evasion exercises through a mountainous valley. Six were killed and Gallo, an opposition political leader, demanded that the US turn over the “cowboy” pilot for prosecution. The JAG, Chegwidden (C), sent Harm (H) and Mac (M) to both defend and prosecute respectively. He warned them both that Capt Jack Murphy would protect his people and was “one tough nut.” Then Chegwidden nonchalantly mentioned that his daughter Francesca was in Milan and weaseled a promise for them to look in on her.

Congresswoman Bobbi Latham gave H a ride to the airport and said she was representing the president who was considering “letting the Italians have him.” Gordon had been cleared for his flight plan then he was to stay above 2,000 ft above ground level. The Italians claimed that they posted a NOTAM about helicopter activity in area. Gordon struck the helicopter at 300 ft claiming that as he climbed to 2,000 he nearly hit a light aircraft, flipped into a dive then rose again just as the helicopter came above the trees. He couldn’t recognize the aircraft except that it was green or yellow. His jet had been outside of transponder range but H did find damage to the jet and some green paint as corroboration of his story. The RIO “didn’t see any aircraft or radar blips.” The arrogant Italian Col Achilla Marcella tried to “set his ground rules” with H and had to be told what a defense attorney was for. Marcella confiscated all the tapes from the Italian air controllers and wouldn’t let H even talk to them – that’s my idea of cooperation he told them.

When H went to visit Francesca, they were confused that he was an “older model.” They had dinner and Francesca picked a fight with them and was rude. Bud discovered that the paint didn’t match any known civilian aircraft paint and had been hand painted. Gordon gave Latham a letter to read to the families of the victims. A farmer named Antinori testified that the American jet had come up the valley at “two barns height.” He thought he was smart when he deflected Hs attempt to trick him that he saw the jet then heard the sound. But H had him ID some silhouette drawings and he ID’d an Italian jet. The Italians were claiming that Gordon was lying to get out of trouble so Latham suggested to H that they go “try it.” And, she demanded to go with H on the flight, despite Ms discouragement. They replicated the flight and found that they ended up at 300 ft just where Gordon said he did. Latham, thoroughly thrilled, asked “where she could sign up.”

Harm caught Capt. Balducci in his lie about posting the NOTAMs on time by showing credit card receipts for a several hour lunch during the time he claimed he had posted them. The data recorder of Hs flight gave info enough for B to locate a dirt landing strip. Then Francesca came to apologize to H, after telling C what she had done and getting reprimanded by him. Harm asked her to go help interpret for him when he was talking to the owner of the strip. They found Arianna Restivo, a young girl who had taken her fathers plane for a joy ride without permission. Francesca persuaded her to tell the truth and testify. Mac said that she would drop charges and Arianna hugged Gordon on the court steps to Latham’s satisfaction for the PR she would get out of the photo-op. Francesca told H that it was “too bad they were parting as friends.” Harm said he was just glad they were still talking and she said that she “had hoped for something more” then kissed him.

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