conspired to create an amazing restoration story, that were it fiction,
you’d laugh at the author's attempt to create such a scenario.
First, there are many systems that have to be in pretty good shape
if you want to fly over the two largest oceans to get home. You
need engines you can count on to keep running until you shut them
down, the airframe needs to be free of corrosion to keep everything
together in the way Mr Boeing designed it and other vitals such
as the electrics, the hydraulics and the pressurisation and air
conditioning systems all have to function as intended. This is motherhood
statement stuff. There is one other, perhaps more vital, system
that needs to be equally reliable.
The waste water system, aka the toilets. If you can’t go to the
loo, life is pretty restricted.
It fell to me to ensure the potable water and toilets were serviceable
and up to a point that wasn’t too hard. Checking the flow out of
all the taps and seeing that the toilet flush functions all worked
was not exactly rocket surgery. The last part of this check was
to ensure the waste could be dumped into what is affectionately
known as the honey cart, the tanker that hooks up to the toilet
dump chute with a hose and into which the waste is drained on arrival.
The large diameter dump chutes have a cap that closes off the big
hole to prevent pressurisation air from escaping and the 707 has
two of them. In the functional test routine the fwd cap was easily
removed but the aft cap was seized solid. It would not budge despite
the combined efforts of three of the sharpest minds on the rescue
team. There was no way to remove it in one piece so the decision
was made to cut the rim off and remove the locking mechanism with
it. Naturally this meant having to source a new cap.
Destroyed Aft Cap
(Click on the image for a larger view)
Second, one of the terms of the contract of XBA’s sale was that
we had to remove all items from the cabin which were gold plated
or gold in colour. This included ashtrays, seat belt buckles, bathroom
and toilet fittings such as taps and even one very gold washbasin.
These were not show stoppers but just time consuming tasks that
had to be done to comply with the BAE Systems contract for sale.
plated item however, presented a problem with its removal. That
was the flight deck door handle. Without a handle on that door,
entry and exit would not be possible.
Removed Door Handles
by Robert Phillips)
So there we were, in need of two very diverse components, a toilet
dump chute cap and a door handle.
As it happened, ours wasn’t the only 707 in the village, there being
another cargo version on the airport.
This aeroplane had been impounded by Southend Airport authorities
due to non-payment of some substantial airport charges. The legal
case dragged on for many years and the 707, now a freighter but which
was originally a Pan Am aeroplane, lay in limbo awaiting the outcome
of the legal wrangle.
Donor 707 - aka Pick ’n Pay Less
(Click on the image for a larger view)
In the UK, there are quaint regulations that cover access to public
paths, covered under basic rights of way laws. In a nutshell, these
laws allow people to walk pretty much wherever a “footpath” was drawn
on a map. If a path existed before a block of land was developed,
then that access was always available. Just as the Lord of the manor
is obligated to allow people to walk through his property along these
paths, so was Southend Airport required to allow ramblers to walk
through the airfield using these historic rights of way. As I said,
It so happened that many years after the defaulting 707 was parked
on the airport, ill-meaning people, unchallenged by claiming their
right to walk on public paths, were able to walk up to and gain access
to the 707 and vandalise it, setting a fire on the flight deck. This
naturally destroyed the aeroplane, with the entire flight deck reduced
to charred ruins and for good measure, the fire burning a hole through
the cockpit roof.
way to treat a lady.
The fire gutted cockpit of the other Southend 707.
Ownership of the aeroplane eventually passed to the Southend Airport
corporation and through a cordial relationship built between the
airport manager and himself, Peter Elliott was given permission
to “visit” the wreck whenever he wanted. The abandoned freighter
soon became known as Pick ’n Pay Less.
So, with our shopping list of a dump chute cap and a door handle,
off we drove to the other side of the airport to see if we could
source these components from this second 707.
Not surprisingly, when we went onboard to look for a door handle,
the flight deck door was damaged beyond salvation, everything destroyed
by fire. We resolved to have to buy a new handle, as much as that
hurt the budget.
The next task was to find a dump chute cap.
The easier cap to borrow was the forward one, accessible without
steps. Opening the panel to that cap revealed it had already been
souvenired. Not to worry, there was another chance, at the aft position.
I drove our rented station wagon to the rear of the aeroplane and
reversed it under the dump chute panel so I could stand on the rear
load area of the car in order to reach the hoped-for aft cap.
Stretching on my tip toes, I unlatched the access panel and lo and
behold, that cap was still there.
Stretching even more, I grasped the cap and strained to twist it
to release the locking mechanism.
It proved difficult because, don’t forget this was a freighter aeroplane
and there was never a need to dump the aft toilets because they
were removed for the cargo role. It was probably 10 years or more
since this cap had been off.
So, summoning extra strength, I again grasped the cap, fighting
it until finally, with a satisfying click, it came loose but with
me pretty much hanging off it. As it unlocked, immediately the cap
came away from the chute and I overbalanced and stumbled from the
back of the wagon.
As I did so, I heard something hitting the roof of the wagon but
with a noise that wasn’t what you might have expected. It wasn’t
soft or squishy, but hard and metallic.
I sensed that whatever it was that fell had rolled under the car,
so on my knees, I looked between the wheels and saw what still makes
me grin from ear to ear.
There, on the ground under the car, having lain in the toilet dump
chute for over a decade was a set of door handles - two knobs, the
square drive that joined them and the two escutcheon plates to make
up a complete assembly.
As I said at the beginning, you couldn’t dream that up if you were
a fiction writer. Truly, an amazing moment.
by the author unless stated otherwise.