Once again, a while back I was invited again by the same company from my previous story to fly their Boeing 727 for the week. It’s a great way for me to stay current on the machine, so yes, why not? They paxed me over to Cape Town on a late flight to catch up with the airplane. They told me to rush as the departure time was supposed to be around 21:00 that night. Well I got there with my crew only to find out that they were still performing maintenance.
I then got told that the airplane wouldn’t be departing because the emergency brake bottle was low and they needed a new full bottle. I asked them how much was in there and they told me it had around 1100PSI remaining. Well for dispatch (as far as I can remember) the figure is 1100PSI so I told them I would take the airplane back to JNB as the bottle was within limits.
They agreed that I would take the airplane and than asked me to run the engines for them as a post maintenance function check. Sure no problem, I’ll do that for you. So they towed the airplane out of the hangar onto a taxi lane. I was than asked to go upstairs and run the number 2 engine for them (the number 2 engine has an engine driven hydraulic pump). I set the parking brake, switched the system B pump switches on and switched the left forward and right aft centre tank boost pumps on. Anti collision light on and I’m ready to start….
The mechanic is on intercom and gives me the all clear to start. So I engage the starter, start valve opens, N2 starts rotating and oil pressure starts to rise. At 20% N2 I raised the start lever and we get a normal light up and at 35% N2 I release the starter, starter valve closes. Next thing I know the mechanic is telling me to set the parking brake. So I tell him the parking brake is set and is showing 3000PSI brake pressure. He’s panicking now and says the airplane is moving and the fuel truck is approaching the airplane.
I release the parking brake and slam on the brakes, but nothing is happening. Knowing I can’t use the emergency air brake (otherwise it will be below minimum dispatch) I pull the number 2 engine in full reverse thrust and stop the airplane. I then tell the idiots to chock the airplane so I can release the reverse thrust and shut down the engine. They finally did and I let the revers slowly come back to idle reverse and then out of reverse.
Then its time to shut down the engine…..and investigate why this airplane doesn’t have any brakes. First off all these mechanics want to blame me, so i told them to fark off. As I come down to the gears I see that both gears brake lockout cylinders are in the de-boost position, the very reason I had no braking. Then Moertoe lost it completely and nearly decked the lead mechanic.
If these idiots just had pulled out the debooster back into the green band, I would have had full braking. This stunt nearly caused me to collide with a fuel truck, potentially blowing up myself and the driver.
We left late that night as the Flight Engineer did a very extensive pre-flight inspection/walk around. Lesson learned, never assist maintenance again, let them destroy the airplane themselves.