Pilot Error: They can’t even read JPT & RPM Gauges properly!

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.”

4 thoughts on “Pilot Error: They can’t even read JPT & RPM Gauges properly!”

  1. Dear Velu Sir,

    That was a real good one.
    Remembering our ‘Ankush” days(BKT 75-76) and your generous hospitality.

  2. Hello Kumar , happy to hear from you . Have you installed strong movable spot light on your car as it was on the Jawa ? Where are you ,coming to bgl?
    velu .

  3. I thought it was a classic case of”Murphy’s Law”. In the Gnat the dimensions of the gauges were different and they could never be installed in any place other then their own .It was not so in Ajeet the sizes were identical even the appearances were similar . So the HAL technicians goofed up and wrongly installed RPM gauge where they should have installed the JPT gauge and vice-versa . So it was , I think it was technical error , supervisory lapse . Anyway , Must be stupid pilot making error in reading the gauges or was my sarcastic brand of humour missed again !!!

  4. Dear Velu, I believe you are being over-sensitive and taking offence where none is meant. Your humour comes through very well, especially the way you wrote the snag. As seen in the two comments, it was much appreciated, including by Air Mshl Ramdas. Your own comment on it only reduces the effect of the humour.

    What you are missing is my dig at technicians by a change in the title. Haven’t you come across the tendency to blame the pilot any time anything at all goes wrong. Why do you think no one wanted to believe it when you said the gauges were interchanged? Their immediate thought would have been what I put in the title.

    I faced this attitude throughout my career as a pilot, including 17 years of test flying. I started early, In 1952 just one year after joining the Battle Axes, we flew our 16 Vampires in a formation from Palam to Jamnagar. Coming in to land I had only two green lights with the right one red. ATC confirmed that the right leg was not down. After 18 attempts, including in the inverted position, it did not lock down. But suddenly on the 19th try I got three greens and landed. The right wheel had deflated probably because of some metal on the runway at Palam. The D-door was fouling and not letting the undercarriage come down. But what do you think was the first question the Chief Technical Officer asked me, “ Did you lower the under carriage properly?” I was stunned, but Nobby Clarke yelled at him and asked him to demonstrate how to lower the undercarriage to get only two wheels down. The CTO did not even want to investigate the cause, since after the wheel was changed the undercarriage worked just fine. It was his junior (Razdan) who found the cause by deflating the tyre and operating the undercarriage lever a few times. A mod had to be issued by de Havilland. This was the start, I have plenty of tales like this from my flying career.

    Do you seriously think the changed tile is meant to denigrate you? If so, I apologise. In future I shall not edit or add anything to your submissions to prevent any possible angst.

    Kapil Bhargava

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