21 July 2009

A funny thing happened on the way to the airport…

Through prayer and the hard work of the maintenance staff we at Mercy Air enjoy many hours of hassle free flying. Aircraft are however machines, and are not immune from the odd mechanical wobbly every now and then. One such example that happened a short while ago is detailed below:

Here’s a pic we took sitting on the runway of our local international airport.

Coming down the runway towards us are two fire trucks and a support vehicle. Not normally a good sign! We have to back up a few minutes to find out why.
What’s wrong with this picture?

Not too hard to spot that the blades of the propeller are usually supposed to be going round whilst you’re flying.
So, we're landing with one engine shut down and the reason for this is detailed in the next picture.

When you select gear down you are supposed to get three greens (lower left) to indicate that each wheel is down and locked. Meatloaf might believe that ‘Two Out of Three Ain’t Bad’, but in aviation, three out of three is immeasurably better. We don’t have a green for the left main gear and despite flying past the tower a couple of times for them to look at it through binoculars, and the gear looking safe, we decide not to take a chance of a gear collapse and subsequent prop strike by landing with the left engine stopped.

As you can tell by the level horizon in the first picture, the landing went well and we stopped and got out to find that the gear was in fact solidly down. It was then no major hassle to fly back to Mercy Air with the gear down and have the boys in the hanger look at it.

Ten minutes later the plane was in our hanger and up on jacks whilst men with huge toolboxes (and a dog) descended on it.

Didn’t take long to find that a wire on a small squat switch connected to the gear leg, had broken off. The very same wire that is supposed to send a bit of electric through a green light bulb in the cockpit to tell us that things in the gear department are good.

A spot of solder and a few test gear swings and we were on our way again to fuel up at the start of our 10 day missions’ trip.

As it turned out, safety was never an issue in this case, but it just goes to show how something so small can close an international airport for ten minutes and cause a minor emergency. We were thankful that it didn’t happen later on the flight to Jo’burg, Botswana, Zim or Mozambique. We were also thankful for the level of maintenance we get from the staff at Mercy Air that inevitably helps avoid far more consequential adventures.

Mercy Air team

15 July 2009

A Testing Time

On Monday morning, two Mercy Air pilots shot off to Johannesburg to renew their instrument ratings.

This is likely the one flight in any given year that you don't really look forward to. Flying with an examiner who puts you through your paces to assess whether you're still capable of flying safely in inclement weather - or not!

The flight had been arranged at short notice (the night before in fact) to fit in with other Mercy Air flights and the examiners schedule, so there wasn't much time to prep for it.

Below is the ground track from the GPS that shows what the test looked like - steep turns left and right, inbound/outbound tracking of radials on and NDB and VOR, and an approach to an airport.

It took the best part of the whole day - in fact we returned to Nelspruit after dark, but the good news is that they both passed, and are legally allowed to fly around with their heads in the clouds for another year.

Mercy Air team

14 July 2009

Just when you thought it was safe to wind down for the weekend…

We got a call at 12:00 on Friday asking if we were available to do a medevac out of Mozambique. Our Beech 18 was already in Moz on a mission’s trip but we had the 310 and someone to fly it so yes, I guess we were available.
Half an hour later they called back to say that the flight was on, so we hurriedly prepared the plane to carry a stretcher, after which we set off for the local international airport to fuel up and clear customs and immigration.

First was a quick stop in Maputo for fuel and then a two and a half hour flight to land in Beira just after dark, for more fuel. We had rung up before to verify, but it turns out that had only got fuel in Beira that morning! From there it was another hour up to Quelimane to collect the patient and his parents.
Turns out he had been in a bad car accident and had a complicated compound fracture of his femur (broke his leg – but in a very bad way).
It took a while to load him but at 21:00 we were on our way for the three and a half hour flight back to S.A.
The weather was about as good as it gets for night flying. We landed in SA at half past twelve and met the ambulance and officials.
Again, thank you for your support that makes help like this possible to those who need it.

Mercy Air team