Been There

This cylinder separated over North Africa in the middle of the night and ran for over 6 hours being only held on by the eight 1/4″ bolts on the exhaust and intake manifolds.
Normally when this happens the head departs the aircraft and you have about 5 or 10 minutes before all the oil runs out and you have to shut down the engine. What was worse, and unknown to me at the time, was that the fuel injection line broke and was spraying raw fuel into the open cylinder and out across the red hot turbocharger and out the nacelle vents. When the sun came up the whole rear of the nacelle was blue with the fuel dye. This 414 was very heavy and wouldn’t have maintained on one engine, with nowhere to go except the Sahara in the middle of the night. Ten days later I had it fixed in Abidjan, Ivory coast and was on my way to South Africa.      Gregory Cotton.

A short story about the good old days of ferry flying.  Greg and I both worked for Orient Air back when the earth was still cooling and dinosaurs roamed the planet.  Yes, we were the dinosaurs, thanks for asking.


Your Weekly Lex For Strength

Dealing with adversity

By lex, on February 28th, 2007

The story of the grounded Raptors in Hawaii reminds me of one of the first TRANSPAC tales I ever heard. I was an ensign, or maybe a JG in Meridian training in TA-4J’s, and one of the Marine IP’s started talking about a WESTPAC pump his squadron had been on.

It seems that eight Yuma-based A-4F’s were on the way to the P.I., herded by a USAF KC-10 – and unlike the high-tech F-22, they didn’t have to worry about navigation systems that might fail. For the A-4′s, it was TACAN and NDB only, neither of which was worth a damn more than 200 miles or so from a land station.

Anyway, about half-way between California and Hawaii, the site of their first lay-over. One of the guys was in the basket, replenishing his go-juice – A-4′s didn’t carry much gas, so it was pretty much a constant cycling through the tanker to try and maintain options if something should go wrong aboard the tanker itself. Fatigued, I guess, from all of that form flying and refueling in the cramped environment of a Skyhawk cockpit, he hit basket with too much closure and a little off-center, the result being that the basket ripped off the hose. The still-pressurized fuel hose dumped JP-5 straight down his intake causing the (only) motor to cough and finally quit.

If I ever end up taking a cruise on a day I’m supposed to be flying I hope they find me like this.


Germany To Vegas Day 6 Part ll

Stress level building, nothing but ocean as far as the eye can see, well could see if it wasn’t for the ice laden clouds. Certain death lurks around every corner.  Wait, there’s the Greenland icecap under clear blue skies, we have plenty of fuel and the weather report for Narsarsuaq is perfect. Never mind, I guess we’ve cheated death with a minimal amount of effort yet again.  In fact we’re so fat on gas and the weather is so perfect it’s time to take a lap around Greenland, OK the southern tip of Greenland, we weren’t that fat on gas.  I’ve always thought the southern tip of Greenland is the most beautiful place in the world I’ve ever flown over.  Seeing the ice cap flow in between the sharp mountains to form glaciers then calving into icebergs is something that photos can never capture.  But I tried.




Germany To Vegas Day 6

When we last checked in with our two wayward ferry pilots they were soaking themselves in the natural hot springs Iceland is so famous for, trying to bring their core temperature, and blood alcohol level, back to normal.  Now if our heroes had been twenty five years younger and single they might have availed themselves to the plentiful beer and blondes that could be found in Reykjavik but alas the story of that day ends with a late dinner and bed.  More’s the pity.

The next day found us once again squeezed into our bright orange survival suits taxiing across the ramp for another go at the ocean.  The leg from Iceland to Greenland is one of the most dangerous in the world for a number of reasons.  Number one is what you’re flying over, the north Atlantic and the Greenland ice cap.  The ice cap isn’t so bad, as long as you’re up on your winter survival skills, but if you go down in the north Atlantic the odds of getting picked up alive are slim.  The other reason that leg is so dangerous is the fact if the weather gets bad at your destination once you’re past the point of no return to Iceland you have few options.  If you’re lucky and were careful with your fuel you might have enough to make it to one of the other airports, unlikely but possible.  The other is to throttle back to max endurance and orbit until either the weather clears enough to allow you to land or put it down on the ice cap when you run out of fuel.  Fun options.


The lower airport (BIRK) with the arrow is Reykjavik, Iceland and the upper one is Narsarsuaq Greenland. The green circle is the max range of the Cirrus I was flying when I took this picture. As I continue west the circle moves with me and gets smaller as I burn off fuel.  I’m just about to the point of no return in the photo above.

To be continued: