More trouble - one of our engines would not start - Tony Cunnane's Autobiography

A Yorkshire Aviator's Autobiography
Tony Cunnane
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More trouble - one of our engines would not start

We were soon surrounded by a crowd of people who came to chat to us and look over the strange British aircraft that had just arrived unexpectedly; it was quite a while before I could get my crew over to Flight Operations to check in. We left our Crew Chief behind at the Victor to do the PR. The first thing I asked was that a landing message should be sent to Goose Bay and to Strike Command in UK. I don't think the Operations staff had ever heard of RAF Strike Command, so I asked them to put a line in the message to Goose Bay asking them to relay to RAF Marham. They had heard of Goose Bay because it was, of course, a major forward operating base at the time for the USAF nuclear bomber force and their 'Looking Glass' airborne command post aircraft.
Below: There we are, wondering what to do next. (I was taking the pic below; our Crew Chief, Dave Cooper, is on the right.) The friendly Americans had already delivered a self-drive hire car for our personal use and they later provided us with lightweight USN flying suits to replace the bulky immersion suits we had worn for the North Atlantic crossing.

An elderly fuel bowser drew up and we slowly filled our Victor to capacity. It took a long, long time and I had to sign a bill for the fuel. I was getting used to signing chits for hotels and fuel. At some stage I got a message relayed to me from ATC to the effect that Goose Bay had sent out an emergency message to all stations a couple of hours earlier because New York Centre had not forwarded our AEO's message that we were changing our flight plan and proceeding to Cecil Field instead of returning to Goose Bay. I found out much later still that we had been posted missing and search and rescue operations had been initiated.

Above: We thought, when I took this pic, that in the morning we would be on our way home.
More trouble the next day. When the time came to get ready for departure to Goose Bay, we found that number 2 engine would not start. Crew Chief, Dave Cooper, outside the aircraft on a long lead supervising the start, told me that he couldn't hear the igniters cracking (think sparking plugs if you remember those) and that was why the engine would not start. The AEO quickly checked the appropriate fuse and changed it anyway although it was serviceable. Much scratching of heads for a minute or two but there was nothing else we could do to get that engine started and so we shut down, put our flight plan on hold and vacated the aircraft. The crew chief decided that we would have to drop the doors underneath the port wing to get access to the number 2 engine igniter. That didn't take long, and he showed us how the terminals on the faulty igniter were "crumbling away" - that's my non-engineering description.

Above: The offending bit of kit. L to R: John Chivers, Dave Cooper, Paul Greenaway, John Elliott, John Hudspeth
There was no spare igniter in the standard engineering pack up. To cut a long story short we had to get another message winging its way to UK via Goose Bay asking for a new igniter to be sent out to us as quickly as possible. We had no idea how long it would take for RAF Marham to get a new igniter out to us. In those days there were very limited long-distance communications available, especially for anything out of the normal routine. I decided that the best way of telling everyone in UK where we were and what my intentions were, was to file a flight plan for the following day showing that we intended to fly back to Goose Bay, night stop there, and then fly back to Marham on the day after that. After doing that we used the large self-drive limo the Americans had provided and that night we had a well-deserved night off in downtown Jacksonville and visited several night clubs. Enough said. I can't remember how we got hold of US currency: I probably signed for it for all I know.

Above: Somewhere on our way south we stopped for photographs - I can't remember exactly where this is.
The next morning the ever-helpful Americans suggested we took a drive down the coast to St Augustine in the self-drive car they had provided for our use. We would have liked to drive all the way south to Miami, about 300 miles away, but sadly I had to point out to the rest of the crew that Strike Command SOPs required captains of aircraft delayed overseas to check in with home base twice daily at 0800 and 2000 local time every day. This was part of the preparedness for war regulations that all Strike Command aircraft had to obey. It was tempting to head for Miami because, even had Strike Command sent a message for me, there was no way we could have got airborne to go anywhere. However, I thought I had tempted providence quite enough for one overseas trip so, instead, we had a nice day out in the beautiful town of St Augustine (three of my images below).

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