For Online E-newspaper
Daily Nation : February 1st 2014
SATURDAY NATION February 1, 2014 Special Report 11 to fly into record books aircraft out of the hanger to go for engine run, ooooohh! It was a big day in Laikipia! Everybody came out to say: ‘Is that 909? Even the Base Commander, Brig Humphrey Njoroge, stopped whatever he was doing in his office to come and see for himself. (Njoroge eventually retired as Lt.-Gen and Commandant of the National Defence College). It was like a new baby. There was lots of excitement all around. It was like the whole base had come to a standstill just to see 909 rolling out once again. It was wonderful.” 909 was rolled to the place where they were to do the engine run. It is far across the runaway. They started running them, one at a time, exactly as they had done with the rigs, very, very gently at first. It starts with an idle run, just like you idle your car engine. They let it idle for some time, gentleman,” as Kangogo recalls. Whatever he needed, Khalil’s stock answer was “no problem.” Kangogo remembers: “There is a very strong member of the wing which is called a spar. It is the one which connects the wing to the body of the aircraft. That is where all the forces act upon. The spar is the one that takes all the load. When you put the engine or any of the items that hung on the wing it is the spar that transmits all that load to the body of the aircraft. And if it is weak, if you repair it wrongly, then the wing will definitely fall off in mid-flight. “The one that KAF 909 broke in the crash was called 66 per cent spar. I looked at the engineering drawings from Northrop on how to repair a spar. Then I went to Kenya Airways to buy those thick metal parts and I took them back to Nanyuki. “I cut them to size there and then started bolting. For those we use special fasteners, not rivets; rivets are only used for the skin to the body. These are special fasteners to attach the wing to the body of the aircraft.” After repairs were done, Kan- gogo’s crew started installing the parts that had been robbed from 909 before proceeding to testing, starting with the hydraulics. “We have a huge machine which is called a hydraulic rig. It pressurizes aircraft and pumps it into the aircraft system the same way the aircraft engine pumps. It pumps at the rate of 3000 pounds per square inch. It is very powerful. If there is a leaking pipe, it can spray and even rip off another aircraft part because of that pressure. “We started slowly, like say 10 psi, and only so very gradually went on increasing the pressure, all the while looking out for leaks. When any such were seen somebody would shout: ‘Stop! Stop! Stop! Hydraulic is leaking from somewhere!’ We would run there and gaze – ‘Arh, yes! A pipe is missing!’ We would then go to the illustrated parts catalogue and thumb through it - pa! pa! pa! Yes, here! Got it! We would order it and fix it!’ It was a totally absorbing thing.” For those parts that were tak- ing time to procure, 909’s crew robbed them from other grounded aircraft, this time making sure they documented it. They maintained a book, says Kangogo, where technicians entered data indicating that ‘so-and-so has robbed this part from this aircraft on this date’, and then wrote what is called a shortage level. They then put a label and tagged it to the place where they had robbed the part so that anybody passing could clearly see that ‘arh, this was robbed by so-and-so.’ Kangogo’s biggest challenge was the electrical area. Unlike hydraulics, electrical currents have no leakages. The only way one could tell faults was by operating the various surfaces and following a wire from end to end when an instrument selection from the cockpit yielded no response. It was extremely time consuming. Joy and satisfaction After ascertaining that all the control surfaces were working okay, the next thing was the engines. The engines of course, had been robbed. The good thing with engines is that they rotate within the fleet; you can remove one to service another one because they are all the same. Kangogo’s crew got overhauled engines and installed them on 909. Then they started testing the systems all over again using the engines, not the rigs. Running the engines, of course, could not be done in the hanger because of the extreme noise levels. As if the epic repair job is hap- pening all over again, Kangogo gets excited as he says: “Let me tell you one thing: after each and every step you take successfully, you are overcome with joy and satisfaction. It is like your little baby, when you first see her standing up like this and you exclaim: ‘Yeaaaa!’ You celebrate! “The first time we rolled the all the while monitoring the systems: any leak? No. engine instruments, okay? Everything okay? Ya. Then they started increasing power – little by little until they went full blast, that is the afterburner. “You see a huge flame coming from the back of the aircraft. In flight, that is when it goes supersonic,” says Kangogo. When all that was successfully done, they rolled 909 back to the hanger and then reported to their bosses: ‘This aircraft is now ready for a test flight. Ground crew has finished its work. It is now ready for the pilot.’ That is now where Col Shava comes in. Shava said, MISSION IMPOSSIBLE Luke Kangogo bio 1956 – Bornin Eldoret Education – MBA, Aviation (Moi University) Member of a Team of Experts drafting the Civil Aviation Regulations for the East African partner states. Chairman of General Aviation Regulations drafting team Kenya Project Team Leader – World Bank-funded Northern Corridor Transport Improvement Project 1986 – Appointed Warrant Officer F-5 Engineering Squadron, KAF 1990 – Quality Assurance Engineer, Kenya Airways 1994 – Principal Engineering Quality Systems – Kenya Airways 1998 – Chief Inspector and Technical Manager - African Express Limited 1999 – Chief Inspector and Technical Manager – Eagle Aviation 2004 – Airworthiness Inspector – Kenya Civil Aviation Authority 2009 – Manager Airworthiness – Kenya Civil Authority 2009 – Director Aviation Safety Standards and Regulations – Kenya Civil Aviation Authority 2011 – Manager Airworthiness, East African Civil Aviation Safety and Security Oversight Agency. ‘I’ll take it!’ An excited Kangogo recalls: “On the day that Shava took 909 up, I think everybody at Laikipia Air Base came out to watch her fly. Even people from headquarters came. People kept saying: ‘909 is going up!’ When it was rolling on the runway to take off, my heart was pumping like this, ‘pa! pa! pa! pa!’ “But I knew for sure that everything was okay. When you test everything on the ground and it is okay, there is no reason why it should not work up there. But that human element still seizes you and you feel it. And so you still wonder, ‘will it take off? Will it not? Did I get the angle of attack – actually it is called the angle of incidence – did I get the angle of incidence right when I repaired that wing? This is only done in the factory!’ “But I was sure. I knew very well that everything was okay. Shava took off. After one hour and there was no incident, communication was okay with the tower, it came back and did a very fast fly past over the hanger where we were all assembled. Shava made two passes over us, each time dipping his wings on either side of the aircraft and then climbing steeply into the clear skies. It was his sign that everything was okay. “He landed perfectly. I am telling you, I was so happy, everybody was so happy, the base commander, the squadron commander, everybody! And you know what, 909 is still flying today!” Daring captain’s last-ditch effort for safety ends in painful death BY ROY GACHUHI email@example.com When he landed 909 and ejected on a rain-swept runway, Capt ABA Mohammed ejected on the ground and miraculously survived. He went off flight status for a long time. Then he returned. Aviation rules require such a pilot to go up with another one who is of current operational status to ensure the returning pilot is up to scratch. The pilot tasked to perform this task was Maj Njeru, the officer commanding the Tiger squadron at that time. The two went up in a formation of three aircraft. But immediately on take-off, Maj Njeru’s wingman, the late Maj David Mutua – he of the famous State House bombing raid that never was during the 1982 abortive coup – noticed the left main wheel of Major Njeru’s aircraft leaving the aircraft. Maj Mutua promptly informed his leader not to raise the landing gear as the main wheel had fallen off. According to Flight Safety magazine which recorded this incident, Major Njeru immediately took over the control of his aircraft from his student and got Maj Mutua and the other wingman to inspect his aircraft as they circled over the air field. “When it was con- Once all the rescue services were in place, he carried out low approaches until he was satisfied of touching down precisely, ” Flight Safety Magazine firmed the whole main wheel had fallen off,” the magazine reported, “Major Njeru got the rest of the formation to burn off fuel while he declared an emergency. He then got the Air Traffic Control tower to seek advice from the Officer Commanding Flying Wing (now Tactical Fighter Wing) and the Base Commander on what action to take as such an emergency was not listed in the pilot’s checklist. “Although he had the option of ejecting, Major Njeru elected to land the aircraft. He called on all airborne aircraft to return to the base and land while he burned the fuel to the minimum allowable. Once all the rescue services were in place, he carried out low approaches until he was satisfied of touching down precisely. He faced the task of landing on a runway with limited overrun in case of departure from the main runway.” And unbeknown to him, Capt Mohammed was utterly distraught. Maj Njeru carried out a perfect single wheel landing on the extreme right hand side of the runway. He also streamed the brake parachute immediately on landing and kept the aircraft under control throughout the landing run. But then, Capt Mohammed pulled his ejection It is like your little baby, when you first see (the plane) standing up and you exclaim: ‘Yeaaaa!’ You celebrate!” Aeronautical engineer Luke Kangogo lever, repeating exactly what he had done with 909. This time, he was not in luck. Says Warrant Officer II Luke Kangogo: “The aircraft was at an angle and to eject you must be at altitude and perpendicular to the ground. Mohammed came out like a bullet and hit the ground several times. There was absolutely no chance that he could survive.” Why did he do such a thing, knowing the extreme danger involved? He was smart enough to operate a high performance jet so he could mysteriously have had two bad days. Or he might have been unwell and not let in his colleagues on it – which is the worst conduct possible for an aviator. But he likely was simply not up to it. As the Americans who had trained him and manufactured the jet that finally killed him would colorfully blurt out, he should never have strapped his butt on that goddam damn seat.
January 31st 2014
February 2nd 2014