A Pilot's Story
Chapter Three - Page 2
Everyone wanted to get in on that, and the room was packed. It turned out that there was corrosion in the torque tubes that closed the door and the torque tube on the right failed in the turn. I went through a test flight in Vancouver harbor to check out my water technique. No problem.
Two connected events happened while it was in Vancouver. First, during the big inspection they found it necessary to change the main gear. The other was that, after the hearing, the Chief of Maintenance, Rex Terpening, a veteran of the bush pilot days, quietly sided up to me and asked whether I had tried to put the gear down normally. I said no, it was an emergency situation and he quietly said the nose wheel would have gone down normally if I had. What a gentleman. My lucky star was still shining and he didn’t bring it up at the hearing.
On the 6th of May, we went back to Sandspit and Prince Rupert and our trips were routine till the end of July. I don’t recall the exact date, but returning to Prince Rupert one day, the gear wouldn’t extend properly so we tied up at the floatplane dock next to our ramp and left it in the hands of the engineers to fix the problem. At midnight they called us to taxi it back from the dock and up the ramp and to the hangar. The difficulty with the floatplane dock was the narrow entrance to the area–just big enough for the PBY to get in or out.
When I arrived, they had a tugboat (complete with powerful searchlight), which was to tow us out to where we could maneuver on our own. I repeatedly asked the dispatcher, who was going to release the rope from the front of CRR, whether the knot would undo when the strain from the towing tug was on it. He was adamant that it would. I was very unhappy with what was going on but had no reason to not do it. So the fiasco started.
I started the engines, as they were the only directional control we would have once the tug released us. The tug started to tow us out and shone his search light on the PBY's nose, totally blinding us. We started to gain on him so he sped up, which tightened the rope. The damn dispatcher couldn't release the rope. How we ever got out of there without hitting something I'll never know. Finally we were out in the harbor and released from the tug. Next, we had to get up the ramp to the hangar in the dead of night. At least someone was thinking and had two cars drive down the ramp with their lights on to give us something to aim at. Fine. Just as we get close the damn cars backed up away from the ramp,
Thinking we might run into them, leaving us in the blind again.