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Sometimes airport fire trucks are not always your friend.

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Sometimes airport fire trucks are not always your friend.

Old 8th Jul 2015, 20:52
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Sometimes airport fire trucks are not always your friend.

Sometimes airport fire trucks are not always your friend.

There were four of us that were really good friends, sometimes we flew with each other, found jobs for each other, but mostly had happy hour together at the airport bar when we were not out of town flying. One day all four of us happened to be in town, we went to lunch together and while we were eating Barry’s pager sounded. So he goes and calls his office. It seems that one of the aircraft belonging to the company he flew for, had been down for maintenance and was ready to be picked up. The aircraft, a Turbo-Commander 690, was at small airport near downtown, aptly named ‘Downtown Airpark’.

So we drive up to Downtown Airpark and dropped Barry off and then we returned to the main airport where we were based. A few hours later another friend, Chuck, comes into my office and tells me that Barry is in trouble. “Someone’s husband?” I inquired. No I was informed, in the Commander, some kind of gear problem. I looked at my watch and sprang into action.

“Go get Jim and Jerry, have Jim get those lawn chairs that are in his office and set them up in the tie-down area midfield and you and Jerry go to my refrigerator in the hangar and get a case of beer out of it and ice them down and carry the beers out to where Jim has put the lawn chairs and I’ll go to the FBO’s office and see what Barry’s problem is.”

So I go to the front office of the FBO where the Unicom radio is located. As I walk into the room there some maintenance types standing around, with very serious faces, all studying Turbo-Commander maintenance manuals and the director of maintenance for Barry’s company is on the land line to the factory. I see that no one is on the radio so I go over, grab the microphone and call Barry.

“Hey Barry, what’s going on?” (Hell I didn’t know the ‘N’ number)

“Not much, how about you?” He replies.

“Then why are you flying around in circles and there all these maintenance types looking all serious? Oh, and Jerry has some beer iced down in front of the hangar near min-field, so if you are going to crash, do it near there so you will not have to drag your broken body to us from the far end of the runway.”

“What kind of beer?”

“The stuff that is in my refrigerator.”

“Make it a bottle of Scotch and I’ll think about crashing in front of you guys.”

About then one of the maintenance types sees me talking on the Unicom, comes over and yanks the microphone out of my hand, gives me a dirty look saying that they had a serious situation on their hands and for me to go away. Hell I can take a hint, so I leave.

What Barry’s problem is that when he retracted the landing gear he heard loud bang in the nose, the mains retracted but he could see in the polished prop spinners that the nose wheel did not retract and was 90 degree out of alignment. So they, the maintenance folks, have been trying to figure out some way to get the nose gear back pointing in the right direction. Now this has been going on for about an hour and Barry was getting low on fuel.

Failing to find a way to fix the problem everyone, including Barry, decided for Barry to come in and bounce the nose gear on the runway to see if that will straighten the nose wheel. If it does, good and for him to go ahead and land, if it does not for him to go around and then they would go to plan B. Now what exactly plan B was, no one knew. So I grab Jim and Jerry and we run out to where the lawn chairs were set up in the tie-down area. The CFR equipment race into position alongside the runway including one of the big fire trucks that takes position right in front of where we were sitting.

Pretty soon we see him on final coming from the south. He touches down, holding the nose gear off the runway and then slowly lowers it. The nose wheel touched the runway and it pops into the right direction. We all cheer and hold our beers up the air. As we could hear the props go into reverse the fire truck that was in front of us pulls out onto the runway right in front of Barry!

I have no idea how fast Barry was going and to this day neither does Barry as he landed at a higher speed than normal in case he had to go around. But let me tell you something, in a Turbo-Commander when you go to full reverse and stand on the brakes that sucker will stop in a hurry. He didn’t blow the main gear tires, but he did flat spot them. He and the fire truck stopped about ten feet from each other.

Later at happy hour we all decided that was too close of a call.
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Old 9th Jul 2015, 21:17
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Excellent, l really enjoy your stories con-pilot
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