Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Wheels of Fortune

The big work assignment roulette wheel spins again. Where will we go next? Somewhere I've been? Somewhere my coworker has been? Somewhere neither of us has ever seen? Somewhere we want to be? Somewhere we wish we weren't? It's all a mystery, until the wheel stops, and the ball bounces to a rest at ... CYZF. Buy a few vowels and trade in some consonants and that comes out to Yellowknife, Northwest Territories. But you already knew that, because I let you know in real time.

We're doing scheduled maintenance a little early so we don't have to do it while we're up there. All went well and then they got the same gear problem as before. A look through the logbook shows that a year ago I reported that the gear horn sounded during the hydraulic pump test, also right after maintenance. The engineers have a new theory, that putting the gear up and down on a jack and then lowering it to the shop floor doesn't give the gear the same jar that actually landing a plane does. I'm not sure if they are insulting the quality of our landings or not.

They release the airplane for a test flight and I ask them to tell me what tests to perform. "Just make sure it goes up and down and the horn doesn't sound while it's locked down?" They say that's fine, and then say they'll send someone with me. Beauty. Then if the gear goes up and it doesn't go down again I'll have someone to make smart remarks to as I look for options.

I start walking around the airplane, checking the oil and the like. The engineer asks me if I'm ready to go and I say I'm just looking to make sure all the pieces are there, first. At that point they suddenly remember they've forgotten to attach one piece, and scramble to get it screwed in place before I get to it. It's an access panel, and I pretend I don't notice what they're doing. All the major components I learned about in flying school are there, and seem to be securely attached to the aircraft.

The apprentice comes on board and I give him the passenger briefing, which he politely pays attention to. The engines are warm from a previous run-up so I just do some systems checks and then taxi out past the hangar and call the tower. They give us an intersection departure, holding us briefly short of the taxiway to allow a Jetstream to come off. Then we're cleared to position and cleared for takeoff.

Gauges green, power set, airspeed alive, straight down the centreline. Rotate, raise the nose, wait and let the airplane fly. Positive rate, insufficient runway remaining, gear up. Trim. Climb out. The clunking, lights and mirror all indicate that the gear went up as selected. Turn crosswind. Bring back the power and props. I put down approach flap to keep us comfortable below gear speed and cycle it down and up. All is well. He doesn't play with anything or ask for any special maneuvers. I ask if he is a pilot too. He says yes, so I offer him control and he accepts. Either he has flown an airplane this size before in which case he knows just as well as I what it should feel like, or he hasn't, in which case it is my privilege to give him a new opportunity.

He puts the gear and the flaps down when I suggest. The wheels are down and locked. I take control on final, check the gear again, and then land, with definitely more clunk than an airplane being lowered off a jack. Darn. I should have done an awesome feather soft one, just to combat their theory. I exit the runway and taxi back in according to instructions. I sign it off as "Tests okay," or something equally bland, and the airplane is officially ready to go.


Band Man said...

Glad to hear the airplane is in proper shape after all! I laughed quite a bit at your "subtle" cue to the engineer that part of the airplane was missing.

I enjoy reading your posts! Thanks!

dpierce said...

Yay for bland test runs!

Sarah said...

"looking to make sure all the pieces are there" Too funny!

Guess it's fixed for now. I don't want to read a post about a gear collapse on landing. Nice post... and very nice of you to ...

Either he has flown an airplane this size before in which case he knows just as well as I what it should feel like, or he hasn't, in which case I it is my privilege to give him a new opportunity.

Couldn't you tell from his reaction? I doubt I could deadpan the pleasure any new opportunity like that would give me.

And no, I read right past typos & hope you all do the same for me and my spelling.

Aviatrix said...

Sarah: Not knowing him gave me no baseline. I couldn't tell whether he was bored or worried. Some people don't like to let on if they haven't done something, and just respond the same way no matter what.