by Bill Fishwick



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In May 1971, I received a phone call at home around 0100 from the Duty Engineer at Qantas in Sydney. He asked me if I would go to do an engine change in Tahiti and be ready to depart at 0800. Boeing 707-338C VH-EAI "City of Darwin" was en route from Sydney to London on the Fiesta Route when it had an engine fault which required the engine to be replaced. Tahiti, it was a magic word, so I said 'Yes' and jumped at the chance of going there.

I threw a few things into a bag and went back to bed to be up at 0530 and at the airport at 0700 ready to go. We left around 0800 carrying a replacement engine as a 'fifth pod' under the left wing between #2 engine and the fuselage. Having two tons of engine under the left wing between #2 engine and the fuselage causes a bit of a trim problem. The Second Officer was under instruction in the cruise segment of the flight, and tried to trim the aircraft via the aileron control. They tried everything from no trim up to full trim, but eventually accepted half trim as a compromise. We arrived after dark following an eight hour flight. We disembarked and got the fifth pod removed smartly, as the aircraft was needed to replace the delayed one. We did not have time to go through immigration, so we were asked to hand our passports to someone who had them stamped and returned to us next morning.

The new engine was then moved over to where EAI was parked and we started work immediately to affect the change. There were four of us from Sydney and we were given two French engineers to help us during the night. We could not speak French, they could not speak English, but we managed to get the job moving along.

The unserviceable engine was removed by the bootstrap method as is usual in such situations. In main base a mobile crane is used, but the bootstrap means fitting lowering equipment to the engine strut. Four winches then connect to the engine, the mount bolts are removed and the engine is lowered into an engine stand.

The change over of items from the unserviceable to serviceable engine then takes place. The fifth pod strut is removed from the new engine along with the faired nose and tail cowls. The nose intake cowl, turbo compressor, and reverser assembly with exhaust sleeve are removed from the unserviceable engine and the items are swapped over to the new engine. That reverser assembly is the worst job as it is black with carbon soot. You get a fair bit of the carbon black on yourself doing the job. I did it once in Darwin and the only soap they had available in the engineering section to clean up was a block of sand soap!

When the new engine is ready, it is time to bootstrap it up to the strut. All the necessary hydraulic, electrical, pneumatic ducting, reverser and fuel control connections are then made.

Then the engine run was carried out. This was around three o'clock in the afternoon and we had been working non-stop all the time. Engine change completed and the engine run was successful. Behind the aircraft was a reedy swampy type area, and on the far side of it the runway. When the engine was opened up to full power, a lot of empty one litre engine oil cans that had been thrown over a period of time into the swamp were blown further into the swamp area. Airborne cans galore!

But we were not finished at that stage. It was then time to fit the nose and tail fairings to the unserviceable engine and fit it to the aircraft. The fifth pod strut is fitted to hard points under the wing between #2 engine and the fuselage. The forward attachment is on the front spar and the rear one at a point forward of and just outboard of the main landing gear. Then the unserviceable engine was bootstrapped up, connected and cowlings fitted. We then packed up all the engine change tooling for return with the aircraft, finishing just as the sun was setting.

I was talking to the First Officer about doing a three engine ferry back to Sydney. He said that in some countries, Civil Aviation Authorities will allow it but Australia would not. If an engine on the same side as the dead engine quits on the take-off run, then at low airspeeds the nose wheel steering would not keep the aircraft on the runway, and the airspeed would be too low for the rudder to be effective. As he put it; 'you would be off the runway cutting daisies'.

The Station Engineer Neil showed us the reason for the engine change. It was to do with the oil pressure after leaving Nadi. He removed the oil filter on arrival in Tahiti to find it full of metal.

That was a long night and day doing that engine change. All we wanted then was to go to the Hotel Tepuna Bel Air, have a shower and freshen up before having a meal. Not to be so, some Line Stations really appreciate the job you have just done, some do not, but at this station we were shouted some free beers in the hotel bar first. Then we cleaned up and returned for a meal. With our meal Neil provided a couple of carafes of red wine for us, thinking that 'we might need a sleeping pill'. As soon as my head hit the pillow that night I was asleep. We had been awake for some 34 plus hours by that time.

Next morning, Neil, who was a relieving Station Engineer for a two week period, took us for a drive around Tahiti Island. We went clockwise around the island; and saw the place where Captain Cook viewed the Transit of Venus on 3rd June in 1769. Lunch was near the Gaugin Museum on the south side of the island and back to the hotel.

We then departed Tahiti that night around 2000 on a Qantas flight back to Sydney via Nadi.



Original issue.