Lt Lucas Pendry, JAG officer Harmon Rabb’s (H) old roommate, was killed during testing maneuvers of a aircraft guidance system built for the air force but, because of budgetary reasons, was being “pushed” on the Navy. As he came over the ridge hugging the ground on APTURN autopilot he was inverted and was being blamed for causing the accident by turning off equipment in order to win the scenario. James Reid, Macroplex representative, clearly announced himself as the champion of APTURN which couldn’t be at fault and he would do anything to prove it. Reid tried to embarrass H by “letting slip” his friendship for the dead pilot and his family. After apologizing to Meg (Mg) for not disclosing his relationship they began trying to prove what really happened; because, knowing Pendry, he wouldn’t have been that stupid to fly inverted over rough terrain 500 feet off the ground!
Harm visited Annie, Pendry’s wife, and Josh, their son, who was the same age as H when his father went missing in Vietnam. Harm had flashbacks to his own notification of his fathers capture and his mothers grief. Lt. McKee, Pendry’s wingman, had been close to them and had been taken, by Pendry, to the doctor for a D&C. Reid threatened H with “smearing” Pendry’s reputation if he didn’t back off and, true to form, that just made H all the more intense. Meg interviewed McKee and found that she did have a D&C abortion; but, then told H that Pendry wasn’t the father and wouldn’t tell him who was. They also found that APTURN had to be recalibrated three times more often in the navy than in the air force.
Harm flew in a simulator of the aircraft with every kind of “failure” anyone could think of thrown at him. He didn’t crash and APTURN worked perfectly until Reid suggested he fly upside down. Harm couldn’t prove that it wasn’t Pendry’s error until, remembering the “Fate is a Hunter” movie, he wished out loud to Mg that he could fly and recreate Pendry’s fatal mission because it had to be something they were overlooking. Meg sent him to Cdr Dale Bishop who wouldn’t allow the flight until H told him of Reid’s intention of blackmail and mentioned McKee’s pregnancy. (Bishop probably was the father).
Harm flew Pendry’s exact mission, with McKee as RIO, which included five carrier traps before using APTURN. Harm said that was like preparing for a marathon with five boxing matches. Harm apologized to McKee after slamming on deck in his first trap saying “he was rusty.” She replied, “you’re corroded.” Then after five such landings she said, “Thank God that’s over, you’re making me wish I’d joined the air force.” After the last trap, H noticed that his flight indicator was slightly out of calibration. When they then used APTURN it flipped and wrongly thought it was inverted. Harm was told to turn off APTURN but he refused, using an override to gain altitude before switching it off. When he did turn off the APTURN it was supposed to go “wings level and ‘climb’ but, just like with Pendry, it really dove nearly killing them both. When Mg said that APTURN was faulty and hadn’t been engineered for use in carrier landings all Reid would say “it will be.”
Annie was afraid Josh would become enamored with flying, like H had done with his father, and become a pilot.