posted on Dec, 16 2009 @ 11:37 AM
OK, that first one was more of an Oh #### that's funny, I have another that could have very well turned into an Oh #### I'm dead.
All a matter of timing.
After 'Golden Gate' went BK, I went to Palm Springs with 'SunAire' Lines...they've been gobbled up by now, I think it was SkyWest also....
Being new, I was back to starting out, again...and in the right seat.
It was just after Sundown, and were departing PSP for one last turn to LAX.
We wore headsets on the turboprops, for noise muffling, and also for the hot boom mics and the intercom, better communication between us.
We had just finished starting engines, I called Ground for taxi....and right about then adjusted an instrument lighting rheostat that was located in
this case on the right-hand sidewall, forward of the armrest.
As I turned the knob I noticed two things: An electrical crackling noise in the earphones, and the lights didn't adjust normally, they went full
bright, then out. Almost simultaneously was the distinct smell of burning wires...the plastic from the insulation.
Just as I was going to ask the Captain, Keith, if he smelled it he spoke first. "Do you smell something?" I started to say, "Yeah, smells
like..." and just that fast, as I was saying it, flames started to lick up from around the panel where the rheostat was mounted.
They spread very fast. Keith began to shut down the engines, using the 'normal' procedure out of habit...two 'STOP' buttons that close the fuel
valves electrically, then pulling the thrust levers into Beta (aft thrust) to put the props on the locks. This meant that it would take time for the
props to spin down, as I mentioned in above post.
(Talking about it later, he regretted acting from habit, wished he'd let the props feather. But, it didn't matter, after all...he was just hard on
Anyway, he shouted "Get out!" just as my butt was already wiggling up and towards the door.
I cracked the airstair door, saw the prop spinning madly...saw the fire behind me RAGE because of the oxygen line, plastic of course, that had just
been breached, and the entire tank of O2 engulfed like a blowtorch....
...dropped the door open...
(sorry, didn't intend it to be a cliffhanger...computer hiccup)
...the airstair door is just forward, about one foot or so, in front of the left engine. I jumped down, and at the foot of the door, aft, so that I
could push people forward and away from the prop, which was my primary concern for the evac. Keith was out very shortly, the smoke was intense...as
I said, he hung in there from habit, because of the prop locks.
Funny thing, we were full (19) and only about a handful came out the airstair door...it was then we realized everyone else had popped the window
exits!!! No one told them to...except maybe when Keith yelled "Get out!" and they saw the smoke, they figured it out.
We shuddered to wonder about IF that had happened in flight. The rapidity of the inferno, from the causal initiation, was humbling. Fires onboard
airplanes are no joke!
Aftermath found a few things: There was a minor electrical short in the rheostat, that sparked the fire. But, why did it burn so
easily?? There was a hydraulic system pressure gauge located in the same area, near the side wall, on the instrument panel. It was a direct-reading
gauge, meaning it was tapped off of the system, not an electronic repeater. A very fine, pinhole leak of fluid had been going on, for some time. All
of the batting and insulation in the wall was soaked with hydraulic fluid. THAT is what made the fire so aggressive, and THEN it hit the O2 line.
SunAire had the habit of naming its airplanes after cities in the route structure...so, you guessed it. N63SA, after being repaired (airport Fire and
Rescue were there very quickly to put out the fire) it was named the 'City of Phoenix".
Fitting. More clever than I thought management would be.
[edit on 16 December 2009 by weedwhacker]