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and when necessary. It was the job of the Flight Engineer to hand the pack to his pilot before he himself abandoned the Halifax, and also to help to release his captain, who would have his hands literally full in dealing with the flight controls, from the restrictive oxygen and intercom. leads which connected him to the instrument panel, and from the Sutton harness binding him to his seat. The seat on the right of the pilot, which could be used by a 2nd pilot when one was present, was normally occupied by the Bomb Aimer for take-offs and landings, for this provided an extra pair of hands which could adjust boost and engine revs controls as the pilot kept his own two hands on the control column at these critical moments. Henry Sheridan had learned his lesson the hard way (it might have been!) early in our training flights at the Rufforth Heavy Conversion Unit. We were taking off on a particularly black and rainy night, the sort of night when I needed to keep my eyes on the artificial horizon on my panel as soon as we got to the end of the flarepath and got airborne with nothing visible in front, I making sure that we climbed away steadily and at the right speed to a safe and clear height. Henry’s job was to pull back and adjust the four levers which set the boost pressures and a second set of four which adjusted the engine revolutions by altering the pitch of the propellers. Clear of the runway, and with nothing but sheer black night in front of me, I called for the boost to be reduced prior to Henry then moving the pitch controls to give coarser pitch so that we could settle down to a steady climb with the right throttle opening and the right revs. My attention was still on the artificial horizon, making sure we were still in the nose-up climbing attitude, on the airspeed indicator to ensure we were at our correct and safe climbing speed, and on the rate of ascent/descent indicator which should show me our rate of climb in feet per minute. The boost was right, and I told Henry to reduce the revs. He had his hand on the controls and I watched in puzzlement as the revs stayed up, but the airspeed fell. I pushed the nose down a bit and urged Henry to pull back his rev. controls further. My airspeed was still falling away and I moved the control column a shade further forward. Still the airspeed failed to rise although the engines were revving happily at near their maximum. Now my indicator showed we were no longer climbing but descending, even though we could only have been a hundred feet or so from the ground we had just left. The penny dropped before we did. I grabbed the four throttles and pushed them through the ‘gate’, and, with full power and still in fine pitch with maximum engine revs., got the nose up again and saw the rate of ascent indicator happily showing us climbing. Henry had put his hand on the wrong set of levers, and had been steadily reducing power rather than adjusting the revs. So as the revs kept up and as I called to him to reduce them, the louder I called the more he had pulled back on the throttles. It was a mistake he never made again, and one which I invariably watched out for on all future take-offs in the dark.


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