- van Gelder, Commander John RAN (Rtd)
- Ship histories and stories
- RAN Ships
- HMAS Albatross (Shore Establishment)
- June 2003 edition of the Naval Historical Review (all rights reserved)
In the event I took a course of action for which I could be justifiably criticised but fortunately for all concerned it turned out well. The immediate action was to reduce power on the port engine but maintain sufficient power to attain at least Safety Speed. I could see no flame around the engine and the observer, Lieutenant Bob Bloffwitch, at my behest could see neither smoke nor flame coming from the trailing edge of the port wing. On reaching about 300 feet I initiated a tight right hand circuit with the port engine almost back to idling power (under the circumstances it may have been needed again on the approach) and landed the aircraft back on the runway from whence we had just come, at the same time turning off fuel to the port engine.
On shutting everything down on the runway (no other air traffic) the source of the problem was simple to find. In the port wheel well a bolt had sheared and allowed the bottom segment of the exhaust manifold to drop between six and twelve inches. Fortunately it did not fall out of the aircraft but jammed itself into the engine nacelle. The effect of all this was that exhaust flames were pouring into the wheel well initiating the fire warning system. On the downside we were rather lucky, as the flames were starting to burn the hydraulic lines that actuate the engine cooling gills. Within an hour the problem had been rectified and we were airborne again on our way to Nowra.
As I have said many times the Dakota was not just an aeroplane; for a pilot it was a way of life and an enjoyable one at that.