It was about 1630 in November, 1967. The phone rang. It was Garth Lowell, afternoon foreman. He asked me if I wanted to go on a road trip to BRD. Being new to this, I immediately said yes. Garth asked if I wanted to know what was going on and I said ok.
The call came due to a series of unusual circumstances. All the other guys on the overtime list ahead of me either didn't want to go or they didn't pick up the phone, so it got down to me, the night line rookie. And I got to the night line due to unusual circumstances, having been with the company just over a year, working in the sheet metal shop. I had placed a bid for the job not expecting to get it because back then the airline was small and everyone knew who was going to bid and what they would get. I was almost on the bottom of the list. But the guy who would have won the bid forgot to bid. So there I was.
As I drove into the airport, apprehension and doubt was creeping into my mind. I had never been on a road trip, nor had I ever changed a right engine on a CV 340. I didn't want to embarrass myself. When I arrived at the hangar, two of the guys who were going along on the trip were already there, Dave Vaness and Harley Fisher. Both men assured me that I would be alright and they'd keep me out of trouble. They already had the road trip kit ready to go. The engine was on the road to BRD. We were only waiting for the inspector to arrive. The inspector turned out to be Mr. McMinnamon (nickname: Mangy Mac). Upon his arrival, we headed for the terminal to catch the last flight to BRD.
For a November night, the weather was quite mild, but I made sure I packed my warm stuff. The station manager was waiting for us. Normally the station gets the equipment that's needed when they have problems at their station. He told Harley there were problems getting a crane to remove the engine. Harley didn't seem too concerned about this. He assured the station manager he would take care of it. It was decided that Harley and Dave would go into town and get a crane while Mac and I opened the cowl and got the prop ready for removal and started unhooking the engine. We opened the cowl and got the prop dome ready for removal, with Mac giving me instructions along the way. I jumped up in the wheel well, pulled down the dish pan and unhooked as much as I could without making a mess.
After we were done, we waited. It seemed like a long time, waiting for the crane to arrive. A good story came with it. Apparently it was a bad day for cranes in BRD. 1. Wouldn't start. 2. Boom broke. 3. Fluid leaks. They managed to find a good one on the 4th try. Besides bringing the crane, Harley also brought both Mac and me steak dinners ; two apiece. We took a little break.
A short while later the truck with the engine arrived. It carried the tools to remove the engine and prop as well as the drip pans to help catch all the mess. We pulled the dome and removed the prop, standing it up along the fence on sand bags. About this time it started to snow, great big flakes. In my mind I got lucky. Harley put me back in the wheel well to finish unhooking the oil lines and working the mount nuts. The snow kept coming down. We got the engine off and set it on sandbags and got the new engine off the truck. We got the new engine up on the fire wall and torqued. We turned our attention to the old engine, back on the stand it went and then we hung the prop. Reading the index marks became a big deal because it was snowing so bad, but Mac signed off on them and Dave installed the dome. I climbed back in the wheel well and continued on with hooking up of the things I had taken off.
Meanwhile, the other guys were loading the truck. When I thought I had everything set, Mac did his inspection. It went fine until he found I had missed a line to the carburetor for the BMEP indication. This line is on the right side of the carburetor when looking at it from the aft side. One has to snake oneself up in there to get it on. I tried and tried. No luck. Again I tried; still I didn't have the touch to get it tight. I had it started several times, but when turned, it was crossed threaded each time. Finally, Dave V. came to my rescue and gave it a shot. I was sure it would go right on for him. But no - he was having trouble with it too. Then Mac stepped up to give it a shot. He was smaller than both Dave and I. Nothing doing. Mac got the big flashlight out that all inspectors carry and a mirror and crawled back up to check the fittings. Bingo! The fitting on the carb was bad. Either I did it or it got damaged in the shop. No big deal we'd just rob the one off the old engine. We came out of the wheel well and turned around and the truck was gone. Normally the truck won't leave until after the run-up. But for some reason, Harley sent him on his way. Now what?
About this time, I noticed it stopped snowing and the sun was coming up. Harley told Dave to install a cap on the fitting and the line. He told us to clean up and he would call MSP flight control. We would ferry it back to MSP. Dave installed the caps and we did a quick leak check of the engine, which checked ok. I helped Dave install the tin in the wheel well and we did the run-up right where we were. Everything was fine, except no BMEP. We shut down and got ready for the flight crew to show up. Harley went into the station to use the phone and we took a seat in the cabin where it was warm.
About this time, the station manager opened the door and told us the flight from INL was going to drop in. Someone told the crew there were mechanics in BRD. We asked "What's the problem?" The answer, "Captain didn't say." We looked at each other all thinking the same thing. It's bad enough for him to make an extra stop. And Mac said, "It don't sound good." Plus it was a 580. We had no parts for a 580. We all stood out side and waited. The next thing we saw was the 580 going over the field with the gear down. Dave commented it was a little early for the gear. They landed and taxied to the gate and Mac talked to the crew. He soon came down the stairs cussing away about a gear problem, right side. We went to the right side of the plane and saw the problem right away. The right outboard gear door showed tire marks. The captain told Mac the right gear wouldn't come up and we could see why. Mac jumped into the wheel well to look around and found the problem. The gear door stop had broken off in the casting it was mounted to. No way to get it out or install a new one.
The Capt showed up and Mac showed him the problem. He was a little upset. In his mind the passengers would have to be taken off in BRD and the plane ferried back to MSP. Mac said "Not unless you wrote it up." The crew had not. Dave addressed the Captain. "Unless you have problem with it, it broke on its way into MSP." The Capt just smiled and climbed back in the plane and in short order was on his way to MSP. A quick call was made to the hangar telling them the plane would need a new gear door and a jack job. A short while later, the flight from MSP arrived with our crew and the paperwork, and we were on our way home. I was cold and ready for a warm shower and my bed.
copyright 2008 David DeBace
Abbreviation notes :
BRD - Brainerd, Minnesota
INL - International Falls, Minnesota
BMEP - Brake Mean Effective Pressure : a way of measuring performance of a piston engine