Needle Ball Airspeed

Sorry about the lack of trip updates, I’ve been super lazy busy.

   So where was I?  Oh yea, somewhere over the Persian Gulf in an airplane with most of its instruments not working, at night.  I briefly mentioned how dangerous it can be flying without an artificial horizon/attitude indicator.  The potential for losing control of the aircraft is a very real concern.  But even if you don’t lose control flying with nothing but needle , ball, airspeed is a hell of a lot of work.  The concentration required to not only keep the aircraft level and on heading but to continue to do all the other normal things required to fly a plane across multiple countries takes its toll.  Your instrument scan has to be continuous and small lapses turn into big problems. Check the compass, off course by 10 degrees, look at the turn coordinator and carefully bank the plane to correct.  Airspeed dropping, must be in a slight climb.  Push the nose down a bit.  Oops, overshot the turn, bank slightly back the other direction.  ATC calling for a frequency change, respond without taking your eyes off the instrument panel.  Back to the compass and start the whole process over again.  One little problem was our inability to cover the artificial horizon that was permanently showing us in a right bank.  The problem was that every once in a while I would glance at the faulty instrument and instinctively correct the non-existent bank causing all kinds of other problems.


When I lost the second vacuum pump Lee and I were cruising at 15,000 feet wearing out oxygen masks.  After an hour my head started to ache despite being on oxygen and I called ATC to request a lower altitude so I could get rid of that damn mask and although they made big stink about it they granted my request.   About an hour from our destination in Muscat, Oman I looked over at the engine instruments and noticed the right oil pressure gauge seemed a little low.  Great, that’s exactly what I needed.  I had Lee shine his flashlight out at the right engine and he reported that there was a lot of oil all over the cowling and the wing.  Not much I could do but throttle back that engine and shut it down if the pressure got too low or the oil temp got too high.


    The lights of Muscat finally appeared on the horizon and with the oil pressure getting dangerously close to the red line we got the Navajo on the ground without incident.  When we shut the plane down and climbed out to survey the damage here’s what we found.



There was only 2 quarts of oil left in the engine so we’d lost over 7 quarts in less than 4 hours of flight.  This might be a problem.

2 Replies to “Needle Ball Airspeed”

  1. Your fans are getting restless for the final post on the leaker in Muscat. Have you lost interest or are you being held captive by ruthless international terrorists?

    Remember, some of your fans are very, very old and are unsure if they’ll live long enough to find out what happened to you and Lee!

  2. Ahh, I’ve known the problem from your first troubles and that is, the extra weight of your cast iron balls and the extra weight causing CG issues they have presented.

    Being a GA guy, I see the risks you’ve taken as way outa my league. The fact that you’re still posting gives me assurances that you’re still kickin.

    Well done sirs but hey, who wants to hear about a mundane ferry flight.

    Jebus I can’t wait for your book.

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