Tuesday, March 15, 2005


Bob Polinuk: "To the Rescue"

The sun was just starting to clear the trees to the east. I "coaxed" the Pratt and Whitney R-985 radial engine to life, and kept it running for a few minutes using the primer. My breath was visible as I sat running the engine, cursing the cold. "Minus 35*C is too 'bleeping' cold to be flying out to the bush", I cursed. I sat there and watched the oil temperature creep up to 40*C as all the fuel in the diluted oil burned off.

Winter time presents a whole new set of problems in regards to flying in the bush. Thick oil, frost inside the cylinders, brittle metal, frozen moisture in the fuel, slush on the lakes, frozen fingers, whiteouts, I could go on and on.

I kept the nose shutter closed, and taxied out as my oil temp. passed 40*C. I trimmed the Beaver, old C-GJJG, set the flaps, and 450 horses woke up the community of Little Grand Rapids. I lifted into the air leaving an exhaust contrail, and headed for Noname Lake.

I levelled off at 2500' and headed south. I was going to pick up Fred and Helen Moar, who had been out trapping. The reason I needed the Beaver to pick up 2 people was because Fred wanted to bring back his Ski-Doo Elan to Little Grand Rapids. I motored along as more heat filled the cabin. It was a beautiful day with no wind, despite the cold.

"Buh-buh-buh-buh-buh-buh-buh-buh-buh-buh-buh-buh-brr-brr-brr-brr-brr-brr-brr-brrapp-brrapp-brrapp-brrapp-brrapp-........" The engine started to shake, just like a Laborador Retriever after catching a barn rat! Shit, I was 20 minutes into the flight and not close to my destination yet. I put on the "carb heat", and switched fuel tanks. Still, the engine ran rough. I quickly keyed my microphone and informed my Base I had a problem and was going to land on Giraffe Lake, and they acknowledged, and said they would send the C-180, CF-LDW. As I turned to land on the lake, I saw a trail of blue smoke behind me. "A little more serious than carb ice", I mumbled. My landing was smooth, and I shut the airplane down immediately, as I was concerned about fire. No fire ensued, but there was oil visibly leaking out the exhaust.

Garth and CF-LDW picked me up after about a 45 minute wait, and returned to our Base. On a lake in the bush with a broken airplane is not where I want to be when it is -35*C out. Then, Garth picked up Fred and Helen, and left the ski-doo behind.

Once back in a warm building, I phoned Bob Polinuk and told him of my dilemma. Bob, along with his son Gary, owns Selkirk Air and Riverside Aircraft Maintenance. They were our Aircraft Maintenance Organization, and were good guys to call when you were in a pickle. I explained the situation, and Bob and I both agreed there was a good chance the engine would have to "come out".

The next day I met Bob's son Gary at the forced landing site, Gary having flown up in his own Cessna 185. After some diagnostics in the cold, it was confirmed that the engine would have to be removed.

We made arrangements to meet at the site later in the week when the weather was good, and remove the engine. We would get John Gibson from Rotor Ways (today Provincial Helicopters) to sling the engine from Giraffe Lake to Bissett, which is road-accessible, once we had it off. Gary brought along Ralph Rutledge to help, and myself and my brother Corey also helped. We built a tripod, and in short order had the prop and engine removed. John picked up the engine with a long-line, took it to Bissett, and dropped it into the back of a pickup truck. Pretty good hands and feet!!

The engine was sent back to the overhaul shop in Oklahoma, as it only had 200 hrs. on it and shouldn't have failed. It turned out the impeller bearing in the supercharger failed, and was blowing oil into the intake, and then straight into the cylinders. They repaired the engine free-of-charge, and had to replace the supercharger, though we were stuck with the engine removal and re-installation bill.

John from Rotor Ways (Provincial Helicopters) slung the engine back to the forced-landing site, and Bob and Gary met us there, and the engine was installed. Bob test-ran the engine, and then flew the aircraft back to the hangar in Selkirk to thoroughly check for any other problems, and double-check the re-installation.

The aircraft checked out fine, and was returned to service. It provided stellar service during summer and winter for the next number of years. Bob and Gary had done a fine job of rescuing C-GJJG from the bush.

A couple of years passed, and I was now employed with another company, but I always wondered what had caused the engine to fail that cold, wintry day, when C-GJJG and I ended up stranded in the "toolies" at -35*C! Then, one day sitting in a floatbase in Riverton, Manitoba, while reading some Transport Canada maintenance advisories, there it was!! Some R-985 engines had failed, and the problem had been traced to the wrong tolerance-fit of the impeller bearing. Guess what else? The engines were all failing around 200 hrs.! Shit, deja-vu!!

I was glad to find out, even later, that the engine failure wasn't due to operator mishandling, as I am very appropriate when it comes to the operation of engines. The cold is hard on machines, but hey, what can a guy do? We live in Canada!

Bob and Gary Polinuk are still operating today, still running Selkirk Air and Riverside Aircraft Maintenance. I see them quite often in the summer, and Bob always has a story to tell. And guess what? They are still rescuing aircraft from the bush! Some things never change. What an industry, and what a country!

REMOVAL: John and his Hughes 500 would soon rescue a Pratt and Whitney R-985 engine from the bush. Posted by Hello

REMOVAL: Frozen fingers and ears are usually a constant when removing an aircraft engine from an airplane stranded in the bush in Manitoba in winter! Posted by Hello

NEW! By the way, the morning we arrived to pull the engine, it was -30*C! Nothing some tough Canadian boys can't handle.........!! Posted by Hello

REMOVAL: Making sure all lines, cables, and wiring are disconnected properly before hoisting..... Posted by Hello

REMOVAL: The engine ready to be hoisted, and then removed and lowered in preparation for the arrival of the helicopter. Posted by Hello

NEW! Prop and engine off, we now await the arrival of John Gibson and his Hughes 500 helicopter........ Posted by Hello

NEW! John arrives, we hook up the long-line, and he is off to Bissett with the engine. Not too often Pratt and Whitney R-985 engines fly through the air "not producing power"....John deposited the engine into the "box of a pickup truck!" Great skills.......... Posted by Hello

NEW! My brother "Gene, Recessive" (Corey) walks back to our airplane after a day of low temperatures and wind. Engine off and C-GJJG covered up, we would head home for warmth and beers........ Posted by Hello

RE-INSTALLATION: Engine re-installed and run, C-GJJG shed the congealed oil clogging her exhaust system. The cowlings were installed, and Bob took to the sky and headed for Selkirk. Posted by Hello

NEW! Engine warmed and running well, C-GJJG leapt into the sky, overjoyed to be back in her element............... Posted by Hello

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