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A short storyabout the key to a problem

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A short storyabout the key to a problem

Old 8th Jun 2019, 11:27
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A short storyabout the key to a problem

The Key to the problem – a short story.

Once upon a time I had a pleasant job flying a 737 around the South Pacific. With little notice, several of us were suddenly retrenched. Now out of work I was driving Melbourne taxis before managing to snag a job flying a pressurised Cessna 425 Conquest. It belonged to the owner of a large department store in the heart of Melbourne. His family would often to travel to their holiday property in northern NSW.

They were concerned their current pilot was approaching age 60 and decided someone younger was needed. I was 54, so according to them I had a few more years under my belt. Having previously spent several years with the RAAF VIP Squadron in Canberra helped my application. Their current pilot, a well known identity in the Melbourne general aviation scene, had flown them around for many years. He knew the frequency and position of most of the navaids between NSW and Melbourne and scorned the use of map. He checked me out on the company Cessna Conquest; a sweet aircraft to fly.

One fine day I picked up the wealthy owner and his wife from the airstrip at their property in NSW to fly to Melbourne via Sydney, where another family member was waiting. I always carried a full set of radio navigation charts of course and frequently referred to the required charts between their property and Sydney. That included Sydney Terminal charts. The Cessna Conquest had a nose compartment where luggage, chocks, spare hydraulic oil etc were stowed. During endorsement training I queried the absence of tie down nets in the nose compartment and was told they were not needed. I wasn’t too happy about this but didn’t want to make waves after only one flight. I needed the job

.After landing at Sydney to pick up the family member, I stowed her bags in the nose compartment, closing and securing the compartment door via its over-centre locking handles. I recall giving the door a final firm pat with my hand to ensure it was properly secure.The flight to Essendon was in fine weather and Essendon duty runway was 26 via Plenty locator. We were passing 1000 feet above ground level on short final when the nose compartment door suddenly sprung wide open to the vertical position. The immediate danger was unsecured objects in the nose compartment falling out and into the port propeller disc. It doesn’t take much imagination to realise the potential for severe airframe damage as well as danger to life and limb in the suburbs below.

I quickly feathered the port engine propeller, nudged up the power on the remaining engine and maintained the glide path until touch down. I don’t think the passengers were aware of anything unusual until clear of the runway when I advised ATC, shut down the live engine and after explaining to the passengers the cause of the problem I shut the nose compartment door. It closed normally and I couldn’t understand what may have caused it to fly open at such a late stage of the flight. After re-starting both engines, it was just a case of taxiing to the tarmac where the family limousine awaited.

The owner of the well known Melbourne department store was not happy and I lost my job. The previous pilot was re-hired. I thought I hadn’t done a bad job and was taken aback when the previous pilot told me the family were scared when I feathered the propeller on short final without briefing them first. There was no time for that, of course, as we were so close to touchdown. Secondly, they thought I was lost on our trip from northern NSW to Sydney because I had a map on my lap all the way. Their previous pilot knew his way by heart and didn’t need a map. Someone told me later that pressurisation changes can sometimes cause slight fuselage warping and nose compartment doors have been known to spring open. The previous pilot did not mention that it is wise to use the small locking key as a back up to the front compartment over-centre locks. I wish I had known about that beforehand because that was obviously the key to the problem in more ways than one.

Last edited by Centaurus; 8th Jun 2019 at 11:49.
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Old 8th Jun 2019, 11:42
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Join Date: Sep 2018
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Great story, bit damed if you do damned if you don't?
most of us old codgers have such stories, maybe not the loss of a job but doors etc popping open in flight.
many moons ago I was hauling a load of SLF in an old ruff as guts PA31. Just on rotation the lower half of the cabin door dropped down, the screaming from the woman sitting opposite was louder than those 700 horses trying to keep us aloft!
I told the Twr said I was coming back with a door open, on final the plane buffeted quite alarmingly. Landed, shut down got out of the crew door to go secure the door when I noticed a woman running away in the distance, she had about a 100 meters head start on me....she never reboarded, never saw her again! -
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Old 8th Jun 2019, 11:46
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Someone told me later that pressurisation changes can sometimes cause slight fuselage warping and nose compartment doors have been known to spring open
The nose compartment is not pressurised. I doubt the fuselage forward of the bulkhead would be affected by the main cabin pressurisation changes. If it were, there would be doors springing open everywhere. 🤪
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Old 8th Jun 2019, 11:59
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Good point Capn Fathom. But it was a long time ago. On second thoughts I wonder if unsecured stuff in the front nose compartment, bouncing around in turbulence over the months or years of many previous flights, could have damaged the locking clips on the inside?
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Old 8th Jun 2019, 12:26
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One of my Cessna 441 Conquests left a nose locker full of bank bags somewhere near Mackay when the locker door opened and came off after take-off and caused the HF antenna to wrap itself around the tailplane!!
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Old 8th Jun 2019, 23:32
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Reminds me of the time I was flying along on a charter when I retrieved a map from my bag to check a navaid frequency, the passenger in the rhs was aghast, was I lost or something? When I tried to explain that I couldn't remember all the frequencies in oz he didn't seem convinced.
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Old 9th Jun 2019, 03:07
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hey Cent, interesting that you drove cabs for a while. We've all done crap jobs. It makes you appreciate the value of training and learning.
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Old 9th Jun 2019, 04:35
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Anybody remember a Sydney based very well known jockey called Neville Sellwood, years ago??
A company, where I worked at the time, has a deal with his stable to fly people around, particularly to and from the Hunter Valley. and ASSY/ASBK.
He was a nightmare passenger, continually demanding that pilots be fired for incompetence, usually because they "turned too much".
Trying to find a "new pilot" every time he turned up (ie: somebody he didn't recognise or remember ) was a huge problem, pilots with a "twin" endorsement were very thin on the ground.
If he spotted a previous "incompetent" --- he would demand to know why they were still on the premises, as they must have been fired for incompetence, as directed.
Complaints were frequently directed to DCA regional office, the calls from Balls Head usually started with " Sellwood's complaining again --- you haven't been turning, have you------??"
In the end, the only answer was to drop the contract and shove the problem off on some other poor unsuspecting sod.
Tootle pip!!
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Old 9th Jun 2019, 09:40
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Conducting what started as a VFR charter flight in the UK in an S-76 with no forecast bad weather, I found myself having to climb and file IFR requiring an unexpected ILS into Gatwick as an alternate due unexpected weather. It was getting dark and I reached for the Jeppeson book, it came open and most of the plates in the binder fell on the floor behind my seat including of course the Gatwick Runway 26 approach plate.

I had turn up the cabin lights and ask the passengers to pick up the plates adding that if there were any with EGKK / LGW Gatwick on them to pass them forward. Luckily within a minute or so, I had the correct plate, but under radar vectors and preparing for a 400' cloud base ILS, it seemed like an eternity.
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Old 9th Jun 2019, 11:18
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when I retrieved a map from my bag to check a navaid frequency,
One of us up the pointy end would run down the back, check the Airshow while saying "so that's where we are" and race back to the pointy end.
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Old 9th Jun 2019, 18:49
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I had something similar in an Aztec once. One bag went through the prop - the prop was undamaged, the bag however....
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Old 9th Jun 2019, 23:07
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This gives a new slant on the old gag where a “passenger” gets up from his seat, announces he is “sick of waiting for the bloody pilot” and takes matters into his own hands...
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