A 7 Squadron Crew have an incident while training on Ops
Taken from Bateleur, September 2002 issue
01-07 February 1978
Pilot: Terence Murphy
Tech: Tweed Reid-Daly
Aircraft: Alouette 111 R5719 – K Car
The Fire Force, K-Car together with the G-Car, set out from Mtoko to carry out "Dummy Drops" across a river near the Mozambique border.
As we neared the river the ground rose up to a hillock on the other side of which ran the river.
Flying over the hillock we noticed that, although there were huts and chickens, there was no sign of any inhabitants but down to and along the side of the river were well-worn paths and fishing/washing spots. We flew on and carried out our `Dummy Drop" exercise and on return decided to fly back over the small compound we had seen.
Directly overhead the compound, still looking deserted, we suddenly encountered the familiar, crackling of rifle fire and felt we had been hit. We flew on down the other side of the hill, checked temperatures, pressures and RPM, all okay except we were rapidly running out of tail rotor control and within seconds it had failed altogether. With one of the G-Cars as top cover we flew on to an old runway on which the grass was about waist height, if not higher, (and would have covered any ant-bear hole) but were pleased to see some 'brown jobs' parked on the left side of the runway, however an old Bedford truck was parked too close to the center of the runway and after frantic radio calls managed to get some action from the 'brown jobs. To our horror as we were descending and ready to "put down" the army driver turned the truck directly across our flight path instead of turning off the runway.
It must have been a combination of good piloting and luck that Terence managed to coax the "Alo" over the truck, the cab of which disappeared by what seemed like inches below the nose of the helicopter.
We managed to gain some more height and one of the G-Cars directed us (by now two very nervous and dry mouthed crew members) to another abandoned airfield on the other side of a range of hills. The "Alo" was fishtailing badly until we reduced speed. On approaching the new abandoned airstrip we had a quick briefing. It would be a good idea for me to hold onto the park brake and once down would be told to brake hard.
Now to get to the "park brake" in a K-Car you had to unbuckle your seat harness and lean forward. All good and well, but once in position I noticed that a short distance in front of my face was the instrument panel and still remember thinking what it I was going to look like if things went wrong. Finally we managed to "put down" without incident, other that two dirty great skid marks. (on the ground!) We scrambled out with our weapons with Terence mumbling something about never wanting to see another helicopter in his life again.
We found we had taken a bit of ground fire. The tail rotor cables been severed, the tail boom, engine and I think fuel tank had been hit and our brand new trusty "put put" had been mortally wounded.
We were flown back to Mtoko while the "brown jobs" looked after our "Alo" waiting for a repair crew to arrive. A-day or two later (unfortunately no dates) we climbed into a PRAW aircraft to be flown out to retrieve our now serviceable "Alo."
We lined up at the end of the runway, the Pilot running through his cockpit-checks, selecting flaps down as part of it, when we noticed that the Pilots "mits" were nowhere near the flap selector and that the flaps by now were doing their own thing by running back and forth (up and down.) Terence nudged, we were both sitting behind the two front seats, and whispered "is that normal", pointing to the flaps. I assured him that it wasn't and on consulting our PRAW pilot on this matter was assured that it was okay and that it had been like that for a couple of weeks.
With two fidgeting and slightly apprehensive blue jobs on board the throttle was opened and we rapidly gained speed. To our astonishment and some distance down the runway we noticed that the A.S.I. needle was still firmly resting on the little pin next to Zero. The Pilot realizing he had a problem shut the throttle, and after fierce braking came to a halt at the end of the runway. (The flaps still doing their own thing!)
We clambered out of the PRAW aircraft and an irate Terence, using colourful phrases not exactly common to the good old Queens English, assured our most apologetic PRAW Pilot that he would never fly in one of these things again and would fetch our aircraft on condition we were ferried there by an air force aircraft. He then promptly refused the PRAW Pilots offer of a lift back to the top and with "bone dome" and map case in hand stomped off towards the camp with yours truly trying to keep up. The "Alo" was eventually retrieved.
by Tweedy Reid-Daly - February 2002