Gp Capt PM Velankar VM (Retd)
This incident took place in the year 1977, when I was on Deputation to HAL. I think it was the last week of the Mad Month of March. Being a Public Sector Undertaking, “Financial Year End ” fever was on. There was great urgency to air test as many aircraft as possible. It was quite late in the afternoon when I was called to do the first air test on the newly manufactured Ajeet. There was the usual Puja and coconut breaking ceremony, every one had sweets and prasad. Many times I thought that the puja was not so much for the good omens it would bring the aicraft but for the leisure time it offered the workers and the sweets which were distributed in generous quantity.:-)
After having a bit of the sweets, I did the externals, jumped in and strapped up. I asked for the air and started the aircraft. As the RPM was building up I looked at the RPM gauge and got the shock of my life. There was some thing terribly wrong – the gauge was calibrated in “degrees centigrade”. Looked at the JPT gauge to see how it was coming up and got another shock. Here again, some thing was terribly wrong. This gauge was calibrated with RPM. I switched off the engine and got out.
The Supervisor was worried and came to check what was wrong and why I had switched off instead of taxing out. I told him that the RPM gauge and the JPT gauges were wrongly installed. In fact their position was interchanged. That fellow just did not believe what I was saying. After all, during every stage of manufacture, every thing was checked by one person above the other. Finally there were people from some Government Inspection Agency (I forget which defence dept it was) whom the HAL technicians called “Aircraft Inspectors.” Not only that, the aircraft, in the process of production and making it fly worthy was given a large number of ground runs, full throttle runs, etc. not only by the HAL technicians but also by the Aircraft Inspectors as well. No wonder the Supervisor did not believe me nor did the others who were present around the aircraft. Finally, he and every one, including the Aircraft Inspectors looked and saw, looked and saw again in horrified disbelief, because the position of these two gauges was WRONG, they were interchanged.
There was no explanation as to how and why such a mistake was not only committed but also not detected for over a period of 20 days plus when the engine was first installed and the aircraft offered for air test. As I was leaving, supervisor asked me what I was going to do. I told him that I was going to make a written report to the CTP about such gross negligence and carelessness on the part of every one involved. Every one present gheraoed me and begged me not to do that. They promised to rectify the mistake, be doubly careful in future to ensure that such a mistake, nay, any type of mistake would ever take place in future. Finally I entered the snag in the snag sheet (Form 700’s equivalent in HAL) and left for crew room. The entered snag was : –
“On start up, the RPM gauge did not register beyond 650°C and the the JPT was more than 6000 RPM.”