The Black Aeroplane By Fredrick Forsyth

The moon was coming up in the east, behind me, and stars were shinning in the clear sky above me. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky. I was happy to be alone high up above the sleeping countryside. I was flying my old Dakota aeroplane over France back to England. I was dreaming of my holiday and looking forward to being with my family. I looked at my watch: one thirty in the morning.

‘I should call Paris Control soon,’ I thought. As I looked down past the nose of the aeroplane, I saw the lights of a big city in front of me. I switched on the radio and said, “Paris Control, Dakota DS 088 here. Can you hear me? I’m on my way to England. Over.”

The voice from the radio answered me immediately: “DS 088, I can hear you. You ought to turn twelve degrees west now, DS o88. Over.”

I checked the map and the compass, switched over to my second and last fuel tank, and turned the Dakota twelve degrees west towards England.

‘I’ll be in time for breakfast,’ I thought. A good big English breakfast! Everything was going well – it was an easy flight.

Paris was about 150 kilometers behind me when I saw the clouds. Storm clouds. They were huge. They looked like black mountains standing in front of me across the sky. I knew I could not fly up and over them, and I did not have enough fuel to fly around them to the north or south.

“I ought to go back to Paris,” I thought, but I wanted to get home. I wanted that breakfast.

‘I’ll take the risk,’ I thought, and flew that old Dakota straight into the storm.

Inside the clouds, everything was suddenly black. It was impossible to see anything outside the aeroplane. The old aeroplane jumped and twisted in the air. I looked at the compass. I couldn’t believe my eyes: the compass was turning round and round and round. It was dead. It would not work! The other instruments were suddenly dead, too. I tried the radio.

“Paris Control? Paris Control?  Can you hear me?”

There was no answer. The radio was dead too. I had no radio, no compass, and I could not see where I was. I was lost in the storm. Then, in the black clouds quite near me, I saw another aeroplane. It had no lights on its wings, but I could see it flying next to me through the storm. I could see the pilot’s face – turned towards me. I was very glad to see another person. He lifted one hand and waved.

“Follow me,” he was saying. “Follow me.”

‘He knows that I am lost,’ I thought. ‘He’s trying to help me.’

He turned his aeroplane slowly to the north, in front of my Dakota, so that it would be easier for me to follow him. I was very happy to go behind the strange aeroplane like an obedient child.

After half an hour the strange black aeroplane was still there in front of me in the clouds. Now there was only enough fuel in the old Dakota’s last tank to fly for five or ten minutes more. I was starting to feel frightened again. But then he started to go down and I followed through the storm.

Suddenly I came out of the clouds and saw two long straight lines of lights in front of me. It was a runway! An airport! I was safe! I turned to look for my friend in the black aeroplane, but the sky was empty. There was nothing there. The black aeroplane was gone. I could not see it anywhere.

I landed and was not sorry to walk away from the old Dakota near the control tower. I went and asked a woman in the control centre where I was and who the other pilot was. I wanted to say ‘Thank you’.

She looked at me very strangely, and then laughed.

“Another aeroplane? Up there in this storm? No other aeroplanes were flying tonight. Yours was the only one I could see on the radar.”

So who helped me arrive there safely without a compass or a radio, and without any more fuel in my tanks? Who was the pilot on the strange black aeroplane, flying in the storm, without lights?

The Black Aeroplane Summary

In the story, the narrator was flying to England to enjoy his holiday. He wanted to reach England in time so that he could enjoy and good English breakfast with his family.

The Trip to England

The narrator was flying his aeroplane at night over France to England. He was eager to meet his family. He was dreaming of his holiday. The stars were shining in the clear sky. Even the city-Paris could be seen down below. He called Paris Control to get instructed about the way. He was instructed to turn 12 degrees West.

Fear of Storm

Everything was going well before he saw the storm clouds and Paris was about 150 kilometers behind him. It was natural for the narrator to panic. He knew it was not possible to fly up and over those storm clouds. He was confused for a moment.

A Risky but Brave Decision of the Author

As everything was fearful at the moment, the narrator decided to risk and flew into the storm, but everything went out of control. The compass as well as other instruments stopped working. He was unable to see outside the plane as the plane was jumping and twisting in the air. He tried to contact Paris Control but couldn’t. He was lost in the storm.

A Black Aeroplane Appeared

Suddenly, the narrator saw another black aeroplane in the storm by his side without lights on its wings. It seemed strange to him but he was glad to see another person in the storm.

The pilot of another plane waved at him and signalled to follow so he did that because he did not other option except it.

A Safe Landing

The narrator flew for half an hour which was quite strange to him as he had fuel only for five or ten minutes. He felt fearful but suddenly he saw two bright lines in front of him. It was a runway. He was able to land safely which gave him a sigh of relief. It was just like a miracle for him.

The Greatest Surprise

The narrator came out from his plane to thank the pilot of the black aeroplane but he was shocked to see no one there. He went to Control Tower and asked the woman about the place and the back aeroplane. Hearing his words the woman laughed and said that there was no other plane except his. It was a big surprise to the narrator. He was dumb founded as he had no explanation for the miracle.

About the Characters

The Narrator : A pilot who was flying his Dakota aeroplane over France back to England lost his way due to storm.

The Unknown Friend : A pilot who was flying the black aeroplane helped the narrator to find the way in the storm.

The Woman : The working woman in the control centre whom the narrator asked about the unknown fiend of the black aeroplane.

Chapter Highlights

  1. The sky was clear with shining stars and the narrator was about to meet his family at breakfast.
  2. At 1:30 in the morning, the narrator flew in his Dakota aeroplane and he was instructed by Paris Control to turn 12 degrees West.
  3. He was about 150 Kilometers away from Paris. Suddenly the cloud storm approached him. He decided to enter the storm.
  4. Due to his willingness to see his family, the narrator took this risky decision but he lost the way in the storm.
  5. All the instruments of his plane stopped working.
  6. A black aeroplane appeared by the narrator’s side in the storm and he was instructed to follow the black plane.
  7. Without much fuel, he flew for half an hour and he landed safely on the runway.
  8. He went out from his aeroplane to thank the pilot of the black aeroplane, but he got surprised not to find anyone there in the aeroplane.
  9. The narrator asked the woman of Control Tower about the black aeroplane, but she laughed and replied in negative about such a plane.
  10. It was miracle with no explanation for the narrator which saved his life.

Word Meanings

countryside : rural side

immediately : at once

twisted : moved sideways

strange : unusual or surprising

obedient : one who is ready to follow order or request

frightened : afraid

landed : came down

Questions and Answers

NCERT Solutions

Thinking about the Text (Page 40)

Question 1 : “I’ll take the risk”. What is the risk? Why does the narrator take it?

Answer : A huge storm was brewing up and the narrator was keen to reach his home to spend his holiday with his family. So, he decided to fly through the storm as he did not want to miss the chance to meet his family at breakfast. Thus, he took the risk even when the visibility was almost zero in the storm.

Question 2 : Describe the narrator’s experience as he flew the aeroplane into the storm.

Answer : As the pilot (narrator) entered the storm, his plane started jumping and twisting. He could not see anything outside the plane as it was black. When he looked at compass and other instruments, they had stopped to function due to storm. This fuel tank was almost empty and he could not fly more than ten minutes.

Then he saw another black aeroplane by his side and the pilot of the plane signalled him to follow. It was a surprise for the narrator as the other black plane was having no light. He followed him without any choice and landed safely on the runway.

Question 3 : Why does the narrator say, “I landed and was not sorry to walk away from the old Dakota….”?

Answer : The narrator describes his experience of flying in the storm as it was old Dakota which was not very big and sophisticated plane and he had very horrific experience flying it. So, he was very happy rather than being sorry after coming out of the plane and took a sigh of relief when it landed safely.

Question 4 : What made the woman in the control centre look the narrator strangely?

Answer : The woman in the control centre looked at the narrator strangely because the narrator asked her about the black aeroplane and she saw no one except the narrator’s in the sky during the storm. Even the radar showed only the narrator’s plane that night in the sky.

Question 5 : Who do you think helped the narrator to reach safely? Discuss this among yourselves and give reasons for your answer.

Answer : It is very difficult to say about the unknown pilot who helped the narrator. But probably it was the narrator himself that helped himself to overcome the fear in the storm as no other plane was seen in the radar except the narrator’s Dakota plane. In that fearsome situation, he might have been hallucinating. He himself was a good pilot and brave enough who helped himself land safely.

Thinking about Language (Page 40)

I. Study the sentences given below.

a) They looked like black mountains.

b) Inside the clouds, everything was suddenly black.

c) In the black clouds near me, I saw another aeroplane.

d) The strange black aeroplane was there.

‘Black’ has a variety of meanings in different contexts. For example:

a) ‘I prefer black tea’ means ‘I prefer tea without milk’.

b) ‘With increasing pollution the future of the world is black‘ means ‘with increasing pollution the future of the world is very depressing/without hope’.

Now try to guess the meanings of the word ‘black’ in the sentences given below. Check the meanings in the dictionary and find out whether you have guessed right.

Question 1 : Go and have a bath, your hands and face are absolutely black………

Answer : The meaning of ‘black’ in this sentence is that the face and hands are dark because of dust and dirt.

Question 2 : The taxi-driver gave Rohan a black look a he crossed the road when the traffic light was green…..

Answer : Here, ‘black’ refers to an angry look.

Question 3 : The bombardment of Hiroshima is on the blackest crimes against humanity……..

Answer : Here, ‘blackest’ refers to the darkest and cruellest crime against humanity.

Question 4 : Very few people enjoy Harold Pinter’s black comdey……..

Answer : Here, ‘black’ refers to dark and gloomy comedy.

Question 5 : Sometimes shopkeepers store essential goods to create false scarcity and then sell these in black……

Answer : The meaning of ‘black’ in this sentence is that the shopkeepers sell the described goods ‘at a higher price’.

Question 6 : Villagers had beaten the criminal black and blue……

Answer : Here, ‘black’ means that the criminal suffered excessive beating at the hands of the villagers.

II. Look at these sentences taken from the lesson you have just read:

a) I was flying my old Dakota aeroplane.

b) The young seagull had been afraid to fly with them.

In the first sentence, the narrator was controlling an aircraft in the air. In the second sentence, the seagull was afraid to move through the air, using its wings.

Match the phrases given under Column A with their meanings given under Column B.

 A
1. Fly a flag a) More quickly/suddenly
2. Fly into rage b) Be successful
3. Fly along c) Display a flag on a long pole
4. Fly high d) Escape from a place
Fly the coop e) Become suddenly very angry

Answer : 1 – c , 2 – e , 3 – a , 4 – b , 5 – d

Extra Questions

Extract Based Questions

Read the following extracts carefully and answer the questions that follow.

Question 1 : The moon was coming up in the east, behind me, and stars were shining in the clear sky above me. there wasn’t a cloud in the sky. I was happy to be alone high up above the sleeping countryside. I was flying my old Dakota aeroplane over France back to England. I was dreaming of my holiday and looking forward to being with my family. I looked at my watch at one thirty in the morning.

I should call Paris Control soon. I thought. As I looked down past the nose of the aeroplane, I saw the lights of a big city in front of me.

i) How was the weather when the pilot started flying his aeroplane?

a) Cloudy

ii) Clear

c) Stormy

d) Foggy

ii) Why was the pilot flying his old Dakota?

a) Because he had to report back to head quarter

b) Because he had to monitor the weather conditions

c) Because he was on a secret vigil against enemy

d) Because he wished to have morning breakfast with family

iii) Which word in the extract means the same as ‘land outside towns or cities’?

a) Countryside

b) Behind

c) Dreaming

d) high

iv) ……………. in the extract means ‘hoping with pleasure’.

a) Coming up

b) Shining in

c) Looking forward to

d) Look at

Answer : i) b) Clear

ii) d) Because he wished to have morning breakfast with family.

iii) a) Countryside

iv) c) Looking forward to

Question 2 : Paris was about 150 kilometers behind me when I saw the clouds. Storm clouds. They were huge. They looked like black mountains standing in front of me across the sky – I knew I could not fly up and over them, and I did not have enough fuel to fly around them to the north or south.

i) What happened when the pilot was about 150 kilometers away from Paris?

a) He saw storm clouds

b) It started raining

c) He noticed a spy jet at a close distance

d) The level of fuel fell below the danger mark

ii) What does the author compare the clouds to?

a) A monster

b) Black mountains

c) Dragon

d) Angel

iii) Find out the word in the extract which is similar in meaning to ‘sufficient’.

a) Huge

b) Over

c) Enough

d) Across

iv) What does ‘storm clouds’ means in the extract?

a) Colourful clouds

b) Foggy clouds

c) Yellow and red clouds

d) Huge and dark clouds

Answer : i) a) He saw storm clouds

ii) b) Black mountains

iii) c) Enough

iv) d) Huge and dark clouds

Short Questions and Answers

Question 1 : Describe the narrator’s feeling while he was flying his aeroplane back to England.

Answer : The narrator was every excited while he was flying  his aeroplane back to England because he wanted to spend his holiday with his family at home. He was dreaming to be there at the time of breakfast with his family. He was happy to be alone high up above the sleeping countryside. he was enjoying the sight of shining stars and moon in the sky when the was flying over France.

Question 2 : What risk did the narrrator take while flying? Why? Describe his feelings.

Answer : The narrator decided to take risk to fly through the storm clouds because he wanted to enjoy his holiday with his family back in England. But when the narrator entered the clouds, it became impossible to see outside the aeroplane. The aeroplane jumped and twisted in the air and all the instruments like compass etc stopped working due to the weather conditions.

Question 3 : Why did the narrator follow the pilot of another aeroplane?

Answer : The narrator saw a black aeroplane which had no lights on its wings. The narrator could see the face of the pilot in the black clouds who was waving and signalling him to follow to get out of the storm. So, he followed another aeroplane because he had lost the way in the storm and was unable to see anything. The pilot of another aeroplane was helping him to get out of the storm and land safely.

Question 4 : Why did the narrator want to meet the pilot of another black aeroplane? What did he do then?

Answer : The narrator wanted to meet the pilot of another black aeroplane to thank him as he had saved the life of the narrator by helping him come out from the storm. He went straight to the control room to enquire about the black aeroplane. But the woman in the control room was shocked when the writer asked about another aeroplane because there was no such plane flying in the sky that night as she saw on the radar.

Long Questions and Answers

Question 1  : Do you agree that the story  ‘The Black Aeroplane’ is a mystery? Justify.

Answer : A pilot was flying in his old Dakota plane. It was very clear and the flight was easy. He was dreaming of holiday with his family. Suddenly he saw black storm clouds in the sky. He had limited fuel so he could neither fly over the clouds nor go back to Paris. He flew straight into the storm clouds. Everything was black there. Instruments of the aeroplane stopped working. Suddenly he could see another black aeroplane. The pilot of the aeroplane guided him through the black clouds. He came out of the clouds and could see the light of the runway.

The pilot of the Dakota wanted to than the pilot of the black aeroplane and went to the control room. But nobody had seen that black aeroplane. It was really a mystery.

Question 2 : Have you ever been alone or away from home during a thunderstorm? Narrate your experience in a paragraph.

Answer : It is a recent incident of my childhood when I was around 6 years old. In the eve of Diwali, I was in the field with my grandmother, it was raining heavily and wind started blowing in a manner that tall trees were falling down and everything was moving in the sky, and my grandmother and I stayed under a mango tree which was very old. It was a very fearful evening. After some tie, we had started walking towards home because it was going near by a river that was flowing in a very fast manner and big waves were there. There were black clouds and big things like trees, buffalo, ox, dogs were flying and falling down and we have to pass that river but it was looking impossible to me as everything corps, homes was destroyed. It had stopped after two days.

Question 3 : How did the narrator get out of the storm in the night to land safely?

Answer : The narrator was flying his old Dakota aeroplane when he saw the black clouds. He was lost in the storm. Suddenly, he saw a black aeroplane by his side, which had no lights on its wings.

The pilot instructed the narrator to follow as he had lost the way. He obeyed him like a child. He was very happy to follow him. After some time, the pilot of another plane started to land. The narrator followed him blindly through the storm and came out of the clouds. He saw the lights of the runway and landed safely.

After his safe landing, he wanted to thank the pilot of the black plane. This shows his gratitude towards the pilot of the black plane. He was thankful to him for saving his life. It shows that the pilot of Dakota had a value of gratefulness in his character.