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

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