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Runaway prowler.

It started out to be a great Monday morning in the work center. Everyone seemed to be excited for the upcoming command holiday party and the start of the holiday leave period. After the morning maintenance meeting, I was to start my day off right with two low-power turns (LPTs). The LPTs were to be conducted prior to taking 10-hour engine-oil samples from two EA-6B aircraft: tail numbers 500 and 503.

An LPT, I thought, is something I'm more than qualified to do. In preparation, I reviewed the ADBs for each aircraft, checked out the requisite equipment (turn screens, turn-screen straps, a NATOPS pocket checklist, and an oil servicing unit) and pre-op'd my gear. Afterwards, I headed out to the first aircraft, 500, with another mech from my shop.

As we approached the aircraft, we noticed technicians in the cockpit doing maintenance. It appeared the aircraft was not yet ready for a turn, so I suggested that we start with the other aircraft, 503, where there were no other maintainers working.

After inspecting the engine intakes for FOD, I installed the turn screens and continued my aircraft pre-flight inspection. I then climbed into the cockpit to complete my pre-start checklist, opening the PCL to the "starting malfunctions" page. Once I was ready, I signaled the PC that we were a "go" for the LPT.

After closing the canopies, I started the starboard engine. All gauges (rpm, oil pressure, hydraulic pressure, EGT and fuel flow) were within starting limits, which indicated a good engine start. Once I completed my post-start checks, I started the port engine.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

I was ready to advance the throttles to 75 percent, but the PC gave me a signal for "brakes on". I gave him a thumbs up that the brakes were engaged--a miscommunication on my part. What I didn't realize at the time was that the PC's signal was instead for an auxiliary-brake check. The PC wanted me to check the auxiliary-brake gauge because he noticed the aircraft had no tie-down chains and only one chock installed. We had both overlooked this prior to the evolution--the aircraft should have been chocked and chained. In fact, our maintenance instructions require us to have both mainmounts chocked and three tie-down chains installed prior to doing an LPT.

At this point, instead of stopping, we relied on the brake system to hold the aircraft with no back-up safety controls (chocks and chains) in place. Unaware of the miscommunication with the PC, I pressed on and advanced the throttle to 75 percent rpm.

Suddenly, the jet started to pull to the left. I panicked and tried to apply the brakes. Nothing. The jet kept moving. I moved the throttles to idle and extended the tailhook. The jet came to a stop, and I secured the engines.

My heart was still pounding when I noticed the jet had pivoted about 90 degrees between two other jets. Fortunately, no one was hurt and no aircraft were damaged. A by-the-book preflight inspection would have prevented all this. As I realized (after the fact, of course), I also had screwed up the PCL pre-start checklist: I failed to check the auxiliary-brakes hydraulic pressure, which, as it turns out, was near zero.

Petty Officer Taduran works in the power plants shop at VAQ-142.

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Title Annotation:importance of aircraft maintenance
Author:Taduran, Victor
Publication:Mech
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jun 22, 2011
Words:550
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