The morning after our night flight from hell I woke up to an avalanche of emails. Before going to bed I’d let my boss Cory know about losing both vacuum pumps and the major oil leak in the right engine so he could inform the owner and start working on a plan to get the Navajo back in the air. Most of the emails were from the owner wanting more information and better pictures of the engine for his mechanics. I’d taken pictures of the oil all over the wing and engine nacelle when we landed but in order to get pictures of the engine itself I’d have to go back out to the airport. Getting to the airport wasn’t a problem, getting onto the ramp was. Apparently in the middle east Friday is the start of the weekend and even people who actually have to go to work, don’t. I tried for two hours to get some in security or operations to let me onto the ramp to check on the Navajo but no luck. They told me that if I sent an email to the airport manager with my request, faxed in my license and copy of my passport, got a letter from my mom….and….and…. Well you get the picture. In the end it still took 3 hours of waiting to get to the ramp the next day. Going with me to help diagnose the problem were Larry and Curly, the owners 2 chief mechanics that had flown in that morning, apparently Mo couldn’t make it. Thai Regional’s top jet mechanics, the Navajo is a piston BTW, wasted no time, they stared at the engine, and wondered why they couldn’t see the big hole that the oil was coming out of. They wiped the engine down, sort of, and had me do a run up so they could see where the leak was. I tried to tell them that finding an oil leak can be very difficult and if they couldn’t do a proper engine wash they at least needed to wipe it down very thoroughly, which they hadn’t. But they wouldn’t listen so we ran the engine up and could actually see oil spitting out from somewhere near the rear cylinder. After shutting the engine down and staring at it some more I asked the mechanics if they had the skills to pull the cylinder and replace it if we determined that it was the problem. The one that spoke English told me that no they didn’t know how to do that because that was a major operation. A major operation? Changing a cylinder is so easy even I could do it. It was then I knew that the Navajo was going to be sitting in Oman for a while.
When we got back to the terminal the mechanic called the owner and explained what they had found. After a few minutes the mechanic asked me if I was good to leave the next morning for India.
“WHAT?” “You didn’t fix anything! The plane lost 7 quarts of oil in less than 4 hours and the next leg was over 600 miles of ocean!” You could actually SEE the oil leaking out!”
The mechanic looked puzzled at my reply. “But we found nothing wrong. With that big of an oil leak we expected to find a large hole on the engine but we found nothing. Just put more oil in and fly.”
I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. I tried to explain that just because they couldn’t see where the oil was leaking from didn’t mean it wasn’t serious. I told them in no uncertain terms that until the leak was located and fixed I wasn’t flying.