Ruthe Wheeler.

Jane, Stewardess of the Air Lines





No chance. Youve got to be able to act. Jane dabbed a bit of fresh powder on her cheeks and hurried out to greet Charlie Fischer. The tall pilot was wearing one chute pack and he carried another in his arms.

Just about time to start, he said. The ships are over on the ramp warming up.

Jane looked at Charlies plane. The speedy old biplane had been repainted and now was shining black. Just beyond it was a smaller and faster biplane painted to represent an army pursuit craft. It was this ship that Charlie was to handle.

Director James was waiting between the planes. He eyed Jane approvingly as she approached for she looked cool and business-like.

Youre to fly as though attacking the No. 1 transport, he told Jane. Keep away from the second ship with the camera crew. Make it look good. Weve got a machine gun mounted on your plane and when you dash in, pull the trigger and send bursts of blanks at the transport.

While he was giving his instructions, the first transport roared into the air. As soon as the drone of the motors faded, he continued.

On signal from the camera plane, Charlie will drop down on you. I want you two to make it look like a good aerial dog-fight. Twist and turn and do plenty of power diving. When you see a red flag waved from the camera plane, go into a dive and jerk the smoke pot lever thats been rigged into your plane. That will release a cloud of smoke and make it appear that youre going down in flames. All of this must be done above 3,000 feet. At 1,000 feet you level off for we wont try to follow you with the cameras below that point. Think you understand everything?

Im sure I do, replied Jane.

Dont you worry, put in Charlie. This is going to be the best air action your cameras ever caught.

Jane adjusted the straps of her parachute and Charlie boosted her into the cockpit of his biplane.

If anything goes wrong, he told her, just bale over the side and after youre clear, jerk the ring. Dont worry about the ship. I made the movie people sign a guarantee to replace it, if anything should happen.

Nothings going to happen, said Jane firmly.

Atta girl. Lets go.

Charlie ran to the other plane and hoisted his long legs into the cockpit. Jane opened the motor of the biplane, waved to Miss Comstock, who was standing nearby, and then sped across the field.

It was a glorious summer morning and to the north and west the peaks of the majestic Rockies reared their heads above the clouds which obscured their lower levels. Jane tingled with the zest of her adventure. She was actually in the movies. Of course she was just doing a stunt, but when The Sky Riders came to Cheyenne she would have the pleasure of knowing that she had piloted one of the planes in an important piece of action.

Above Jane the first tri-motor, the plane she was to attack, was climbing steadily while the second of the big ships, with the director and main camera crew, was wheeling off the field.

Charlie was already in the air, following her fast.

It took them fifteen minutes to get into position for action and at a signal from the director in the second tri-motor, the first plane lined away west, simulating a transport in regular flight. Jane, who was a thousand feet above the transport, jammed the throttle on full and dove for the big plane.

The wings of her biplane trembled under the crashing dive, but she knew the planes capabilities and her heart thrilled as she roared down on the big ship.

The machine gun spouted flame and smoke as she pulled the trigger. She flashed past the tri-motor, nosed up, and poured another volley of fake bullets at the big ship. Now the chase was on in earnest, the pilots of the tri-motor making every attempt to elude the pursuer and Jane was astounded at the tricky flying which could be done with one of the big transports.

Back and forth they roared through the sky, twisting and turning, until it became a real game. Then the roar of another motor came to Janes ears and she looked back to see Charlie dropping down on her. That was her cue to stop chasing the tri-motor and attempt to save herself.

She dropped her own plane into a quick, twisting dive, that caught Charlie unawares and he missed her the first time, but he came fighting back, his own machine gun spouting blanks. For twenty minutes they twisted and turned, first Charlie gaining the advantage and then Jane. Then she saw a red flag waving from the camera plane. It was the signal for the dive on which she was to release the smoke pot.

Charlie was well above her, diving again. Jane waited until his plane was almost on her. Then she spun her own ship into a twisting plunge and tripped the trigger of the smoke pot apparatus.

Almost instantly a cloud of thick, heavy smoke rolled out of the fuselage behind her and Charlies plane disappeared for a second in the smoke screen.

Jane watched the altimeter. She had been up 3,100 feet when she released the smoke pot. At a thousand feet above ground she was to level off and scoot back to the Cheyenne field.

She had been too busy warding off Charlies attack to watch just where they were and was surprised to find herself just north of the home field. For all Jane knew they might have been thirty miles away.

The biplane spun down dizzily, the speed increasing until the wing wires screamed in protest. But it was good action and Jane knew the movie cameras would catch every bit of it as the smoking plane thundered toward the ground.

She felt remarkably cool as the speed increased. She had every confidence in the sturdy old biplane and at 1,800 feet she pulled the stick back a bit to see how the plane responded. To her horror there was no lessening in the angle of the dive and she turned quickly. The controls had jammed and the tail of her plane was ablaze, set afire in some way by the smoke pot.

Chapter Twenty-one
Too Much Action

For a moment sickening panic gripped Jane. Then she remembered that Charlie had insisted that she wear a parachute and there was plenty of time for her to bail out of the falling plane.

Jane looked back. Charlies ship sped out of the trail of smoke and she saw his tense face peering over the cockpit. Behind him boomed the camera ship, recording every movement of the planes.

The flames, whipped by the wind, mounted and Jane knew there was little time to lose. They were down to 1,200 feet and she steeled herself for the leap from the plane.

It was her first jump and she hesitated for a moment. Desperately she tried the controls again but there was no hope there. The plane was falling at an alarming rate of speed.

Jane crouched in the seat, making sure that the chute was clear of any obstructions. It took nerve and a cool head to do what was ahead. At 1,000 feet she shot out of the plane, doubling over twice as she tumbled through the air.

The blazing biplane roared past her and she pulled the chute ring, using both hands. Behind her the pilot chute cracked out and then the great silken umbrella filled with air. Her plunge downward was stopped suddenly and she found herself drifting 800 feet above the ground.

The leap from the plane had been so sudden Jane had no time to analyze her feelings while she fell, but now, swinging below the parachute, she felt weak and sick.

The biplane spun downward, smoke and flame shooting from the fuselage. Close behind it followed Charlie, riding it to the ground, while above hovered the camera ship.

Jane was swinging under the chute in a wide arc. That would never do for she would be slapped hard against the ground. Pulling on the lines above, she checked the swinging. There was a slight wind from the north that would take her down on the Cheyenne airport.

Jane watched the biplane closely as it neared the ground. It struck, nose first and then disappeared in a volcano of smoke and flame.

Jane closed her eyes and when she opened them she had drifted past the scene of the wrecked plane and was coming down over the north boundary of the airport. A car from the main building was racing toward her. Jane recognized the ambulance trailing after it. They were taking no chances.

She tried to relax as the chute neared the ground. She knew that tense muscles might result in a broken bone for landing in a parachute was anything but a lark.

Three field mechanics jumped from the car and ran to catch Jane as she landed. One of them managed to reach her in time to ease the shock of the fall, but she got a severe jar.

They helped Jane out of the chute harness and she stepped clear just as Miss Comstock arrived aboard the ambulance.

Are you hurt, Jane? she asked anxiously.

Just scared a little, confessed Jane, who now felt trembly all over.

I was so afraid you werent going to jump in time, said the chief stewardess. Im about ready to go to the hospital myself.

Just then Charlie Fischer pan-caked in for a quick landing, leaped from his plane and ran toward them.

All right, Jane? he asked.

Yes, but your planes a wreck, she replied, pointing beyond the north boundary of the field where flames were licking around the remains of the biplane.

Forget about the plane, growled Charlie, just as long as you came out all right.

Jane entered the field car and Miss Comstock accompanied her, the mechanics remaining to fold up the parachute. While on their way back to the administration building, the camera plane landed. As soon as it reached the hangar, the director leaped out and hurried toward Jane.

Before he could reach her, Charlie, who had taxied his plane across the field, cut in. He was raging mad at the slip-shod work of the movie men who had made the installation of the smoke pot in the ship Jane had flown.

You ought to be kicked clear off the field, he shouted at the director. There wasnt any danger in the stunt until we had to depend on the work of some of your men and then everything went wrong. Ive a good notion to sock somebody.

It was a regrettable accident, admitted the director, attempting to placate the angry Charlie, and the company is willing to pay Miss Cameron handsomely for her work.

Fat lot of good that would have done her if she hadnt got down all right, snorted Charlie.

Im very sorry the smoke pot set the plane on fire, said the director turning to Jane. As you know I was hesitant about having you fly at all.

I dont blame you for the accident, replied Jane. We did so much twisting and turning up there that the smoke pot was probably dislodged. I hope it didnt spoil your film.

The director smiled. I think weve probably the best airplane shots ever made for the cameramen were able to follow your ship until it crashed. Of course well have to cut a few feet where you jumped, but that can be done very easily.

Janes work was over and she wanted to get away and be alone for a time. Perhaps shed even cry a little for the tension had been terrific. She slipped away and went to Mrs. Murphys where she undressed, took a refreshing bath, and went to bed. It was early evening when she wakened and went down stairs.

Mrs. Murphy emerged from the kitchen.

A gentleman called a time ago and left this letter for you. I think he was from the film company.

Jane looked at the letter. The return address was that of the leading hotel in the city. She opened the envelope and drew out a crisp check. It was made payable to Jane Cameron in the amount of $250 and was signed by Roscoe James for the Mammoth Film Company.

Janes eyes blurred. Why that check would more than equal all of the money she had spent learning how to fly, but she decided that she wouldnt want to do film stunts for a living.

There was a note with the check and Jane read it eagerly.

Dear Miss Cameron: We are showing early shots of the film tonight at the hotel at eight. The scenes taken this morning will be included and we would like to have you present. The check is in appreciation of your fine work. Cordially, Roscoe James.

Janes heart leaped. She wouldnt have to wait until the picture was completed and released. She could see the pictures of the airplane action that night.

Mrs. Murphy, she called, were going to the hotel at eight oclock. Theyre showing scenes of the picture which have been taken at Cheyenne.

What a pity the other girls arent here, said Mrs. Murphy. Im all in a bustle Im that excited. Do you suppose I took well?

Im sure you did.

But did they invite me to see the pictures? asked Mrs. Murphy anxiously.

Well, they didnt exactly mention you by name, but I know they wont object. You get your hat and well go along. Weve only a little more than time enough to get there now.

But youve had no supper, Jane.

Im not hungry. Im too excited.

Well, youre going to eat, said Mrs. Murphy firmly, who believed that food was necessary at regular intervals. Theres several sandwiches and a glass of milk in the ice box. You eat that while Im fixing my hair.

When they reached the hotel, Charlie Fischer and Miss Comstock were waiting in the lobby.

This is going to be a real treat, smiled Miss Comstock. I never thought Id be in a movie, even as an extra in a crowd scene.

And I never dreamed that I would pilot a plane with cameras recording the scene, admitted Jane.

You might add that you never dreamed you would have to take to a chute to get down, put in Charlie.

Youre right and once is enough, said Jane firmly.

The pictures were to be shown in the ballroom. While they waited, Miss Barrett and Gary Macklin came out of the dining room. They paused to visit, awaiting the arrival of the director.

I hear I missed some unusual action by staying in bed this morning, smiled Miss Barrett.

It was too much action, said Charlie.

How did you ever have the nerve to jump? the film star asked Jane.

It wasnt nerve, replied Jane, it was just a case of necessity.

The director arrived and they went into the ballroom where a screen had been erected at one end and a portable projector placed at the other.

Were going to run through everything weve taken, explained the director as the company, including cameramen and technicians, gathered. Turning to the Federated Airways people, he explained, Of course there is no sound on the print were running tonight. The noise of the airplane engines will be produced in the home studio and worked into the sound track later.

They found seats and the lights were turned off. There was no title to precede the start of the actual picture, the first scene being of the Cheyenne airport with the Coast to Coast Limited coming in from the west. Jane started as she recognized the familiar action which had taken place only that Monday morning. She saw herself walking across the concrete floor to speak to the incoming stewardess. Then she entered the cabin and a few seconds later another stewardess walked across the hangar.

Jane smiled for the second girl was Claudette Barrett, looking exceedingly attractive in the uniform of a Federated Airways stewardess. Then there was a shot of the plane taking off, and, after that, pictures of Miss Barrett and Gary Macklin talking in the shadows of one of the great tri-motors, several shots showing the leading man at the controls of one of the big planes, and a number showing him in the cockpit of the army plane which Charlie had flown that morning.

Pictures of the planes coming in at night, especially, thrilled Jane. In the crowd scenes she saw Sue, Alice, Grace and Miss Comstock. Then came the unforgettable scene, with Mrs. Murphy trying to make up her mind about getting aboard the plane, and the efforts of Miss Barrett and Gary Macklin to convince her that flying was safe. The entire group burst into hearty laughter and the director leaned back to speak to Miss Barrett.

Thats one of the best bits of natural comedy Ive seen in years, Jane heard him say.

The picture swung into the air action which had been taken that morning, showing the departure of the tri-motor. Then Jane saw the black plane which she had piloted bearing down on the transport and she leaned forward in her chair. This was her part of the picture. Her mouth felt dry and her brow was hot as she watched the black plane dart toward the unsuspecting tri-motor.

Smoke and flame shot from the gun on her plane as she maneuvered to force the transport down. The camera range had been too long to get a glimpse of Janes face and reveal that a girl was flying the plane, but her scarf, which had been wound around her head, trailed over the edge of the cockpit, whipping in the wind.

The director turned to an assistant. Make a note that when we take the close-up shots in the studio there must be a scarf tied to the helmet of the pilot of the bandit plane.

Out of the clouds dropped Charlie Fischer in the army plane, roaring down upon Jane and the black ship. For the next few minutes Jane was almost breathless as she watched the maneuvers in the air. It was more thrilling than she had dared to imagine, and the cameras had caught every twist and turn of the plane. Then came the last dive by Charlie and the puff of smoke from the black biplane, which fell away in a twisting dive.

Jane, watching intently, saw flames lick out of the fuselage and seconds later she catapulted from the burning plane. The cameras, following the blazing ship, failed to show her chute open, but they kept the focus on the plane until it smashed into the ground, a flaming mass of wreckage.

The film sputtered out of the projector and the lights in the ballroom came on. Director James turned to Jane and Charlie.

Congratulations on some exceptionally fine flying, he said. Then, aiming his question at Jane, he asked, How would you like to come to Hollywood? Im sure we could find some small roles for a girl who has your coolness and nerve.

Jane shook her head firmly.

Once was enough. Ive had all of the movie experience I want.

Chapter Twenty-two
Promotion for Jane

Whats this I hear about your turning down an offer to go to Hollywood? demanded Sue when she reached Mrs. Murphys the next morning after a night flight from Chicago.

Did you really do that? asked Grace, who had just arrived.

Jane smiled at their insistent questions.

I did something like it, she confessed. At least I recall that Mr. James mentioned something about going to Hollywood. He said he thought he could find work there for me in minor parts.

And you turned that down? gasped Sue.

I certainly did. Im no actress and I know it. Perhaps I could get by for a time on my ability to do aviation scenes, but that wouldnt last long and then Id be looking for a job.

But think of all the romance of going to Hollywood, Sue insisted.

There wouldnt be much romance in going hungry, replied Jane. Im satisfied.

I think youre smart, put in Grace. In Chicago the last trip, I heard that with business picking up, the line was going to put on more girls. That means Miss Comstock will need an assistant and I wouldnt be a bit surprised if you were appointed.

Id like that if I could keep on flying, said Jane, but why do you think I have a chance?

Easy, smiled Grace. For one thing, youre the best-known stewardess on the line. Youve got a pleasing personality, all of the girls like you, and you certainly know your work. What more is needed?

Nothing, confessed Jane, but your specifications dont fit me.

Just wait and see, predicted Grace.

The motion picture company remained at Cheyenne the rest of the week, but the shots did not require extras although the girls often saw members of the company at the airport.

There go my hopes of a film career, smiled Sue a little ruefully, as she watched the director, and the leading man and lady board a westbound plane Sunday morning. Guess I wasnt cut out for an actress after all.

But youre in the picture as an extra, like the rest of us, Alice consoled her.

Well be lucky if they dont decide to eliminate the scenes were in, said Grace cheerfully. Of course Ive written my folks all about the picture and theyll need a microscope to find me.

During the next week word came out from Chicago that six more girls were being recruited and would be sent to Cheyenne to take the training course. Soon after that, Miss Comstock summoned Jane to her office.

Youve heard the service is to be enlarged? she asked and Jane nodded.

It will mean considerable additional work in training these girls, while I am supervising the regular routine, she went on. I have asked the company for an assistant and they have given me permission to select one of the girls in the ranks. She paused and Janes heart leaped hopefully.

I should like to have you help me, went on Miss Comstock and Jane felt her face flushing. Your salary will be advanced to $140 a month, but at present I would prefer that none of the other girls know about this salary arrangement. What do you think about it?

Im delighted, said Jane. Of course Ill be glad to do anything that I can, but I dont want to go out of active flying altogether.





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