29th Jan 2012, 11:16
Join Date: Jun 2006
Lincolns/"tool boxes"/"resources"/Aldis lamps and alleged submarines
I hate the terminology of “tool boxes” and “resources” in corporate-speak but decided to slip them into this story for those that love CRM and associated corporate speak. This is a letter to one of my 80 year old mates from RAAF days during a recent email exchange about the good old days of the Fifties era
If no flying for the day at 10 sqn crews would assemble on opposite sides of the parade ground and practice sending morse code using Aldis lamps We even used Aldis lamps in Lincolns, flashing away at a signalman on the bridge of warships while the pilot maintained a turn around the ship. The biggest stuff I made was in the middle of the night while patrolling over the Arafura Sea.
We had a radar contact on a suspected submarine on the surface 20 miles off the coast of Timor. Nowadays political correctness would require me to say “alleged” submarine seeing as we had not positively identified the echo as one. We bored in from 10 miles and I switched on the landing light situated near the tip of the left wing, if I recall. Alas we must have been going too fast because as the light extended on hinges it blew away with a shower of sparks. We never used the light for landing anyway – that was for wimps of civvy pilots.
I called for the front gunner or whoever was in the nose, to switch on the Aldis light to put a spotlight on whatever it was that showed up on the radar. It was pitch dark at the time. Within seconds I was blinded by reflective light from the Aldis lamp reflecting off the various angled windows that were characteristic of the design of the nose of the long nose Lincoln.
We were now at 500 feet and I was concerned we would hit the sea blinded by light. I called for the bloke in the nose to switch off the Aldis light. By then the radar echo had disappeared leading us to believe it was a submarine that had submerged on hearing us coming. Four RR Merlins at high power would make a lot of noise on a still night over the ocean so he must have heard us.
I think that was the same night when Flt Lt Ricky Tate who was flying another Lincoln in the same area lost all four engines at 1500 ft when changing over from wing tanks to overload tanks in the bomb bay. Sergeant Jim Chataway was the second pilot.
Flying Officer Ray Parkin was the signaller and had his head in the radar screen under a cloth cover when Chataway stampeded over him to switch off the high pressure fuel pumps from the bomb bay tanks and Ray wore Jim’s size 10 flying boot in the back of the head.
Rick and Jim managed to get one engine going as they prepared to ditch and then got two more engines going at 200 ft and climbed away. It was a mighty close thing. Rick Tate was a QFI on Wirraways and put down the escape from ditching on the fact that the RAAF taught its student pilots that when low flying below 500 feet and there is a need to change fuel tanks, it is good airmanship to climb to safe height before doing so. 1500 ft was considered a safe height. Nowadays it is called Threat and Error Management or TEM.
So Rick had climbed the Lincoln to 1500 ft before switching fuel tanks and when the problem happened he was able to get the engines going before being forced to ditch with all four engines dead.
Nowadays with the term “airmanship” gone the way of the Dodo, when the engines ran out of fuel and Ricky yelled for Jim Chataway to come up front in a hurry from where he happened to be resting near the main spar, it would be called good CRM in that Ricky called upon one of the “resources” or “tools in his tool box” (Chataway).
In turn Chataway used his own “resources” (a size 10 boot), to place his boot squarely on the radar operator's head, thereby squashing his face into the radar screen, in order to get up front to locate the belly tank high pressure fuel pumps switches. These were situated on the cockpit wall next to the radar operator.
These pumps, which were currently pumping air instead of petrol into the engines, had been switched on to get fuel from the bomb-bay tanks. Turned out at the subsequent inquiry that the belly tanks never had any fuel in them in the first place because of a stuff up with inoperative fuel gauges.
The reason for no fuel in the belly (bomb-bay) fuel tanks was that their fuel contents gauges showed full (electrical defect?) when the the airman responsible for refuelling had arrived to put fuel in the tanks. He noted the gauges indicated already full so understandably decided there was no need to add more fuel.
Just a bit of "corporate history", chaps. We called them war stories!