Monday, December 01, 2014

Convergence or just coincidence?

We here at the Dougloid Papers TPE331 desk have taken note of the conviction and sentencing of Floyd Stillwell for violating the Arms Export Control Act.  It seems that Stillwell and others conspired to refurbish T-76 aircraft engines, which are really military TPE331s, and send them to Venezuela where (I suppose) Hugo Chavez was impatiently tapping his pointy toe shod foot.  It also seems that Stillwell and his company, Marsh Aviation, furnished training in maintenance and repair to members of the Venezuelan Air Force without, of course, seeking permission from the Great Satans in Washington.

A couple of points of information.

Had it not been for a failed air conditioner clutch in a Ford Taurus I had rented  I might well have been working at  Marsh Aviation. It was like this. I was on my way out to Marsh for an interview in 1986 when the a/c clutch grenaded itself, putting a few dents in the hood of the Taurus I'd rented from Budget that day in Phoenix. It took about three or four hours to get things back in operation, which left me a sweat soaked smelly mess out there in the Arizona desert in June. For various reasons the interview never came off, otherwise I probably would have been involved in this mess at some point or other. The hand of karma, maybe?

When I had worked in the engine shop at Garrett some years earlier, I and others refurbished a number of engines (I think around half a dozen) for something called the Argentine Naval Commission. The engines would come in stripped externally, we'd go over them, replace all the ancillaries and rigging, test run them, and back to Argentina they'd go. We always thought that this was a way to obtain new ancillaries without going through the process of ordering them individually.

What I and others did not know was that these engines were used on the Argentine Navy's Shorts Skyvans, which at the time were engaged in taking dissidents on one way trips about 20 miles offshore to see if they could swim back with their hands and feet tie wrapped.

Few succeeded.

The fact that the OV10 engine was a military use product meant that spare parts were often dedicated military stock. That is, say, I wanted a compressor bearing (which were hard to find at times). Although the manufacturer would refurbish them if there were enough to make it worth their while, and they had previously been inspected and reinstalled in civil engines, a dedicated stock of bearings would be held on Garrett's shelf, no matter how bad a civilian needed them. They were supposed to be replaced for sudden stoppages and the previous procedure had been withdrawn (no doubt for liability reasons) we'd take them apart, inspect the balls and races for brinnelling, take a deep breath, look away, and reinstall them.

Not one ever failed as I recall.


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