Recovery of No2 engine from a Spantax DC10
by BCal Engineering
from
Ian Bagshaw

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A couple of the team members had previous experience in aircraft crash recovery, which was a great help.  Obviously we took the DC10 engine change fly-away kit plus additional scaffolding, fire axes, first-aid kit, rope, and of course the individual members’ tool-boxes.

We departed in the evening on one of our 707 freighters with all the gear onboard and, as can be seen from the photos  the additional seats at the back of the aircraft.  The photos show the team members and the Caledonian Air Motive rep enjoying some light refreshments, no doubt purchased from the duty-free shop! 

I think it was early the next morning when we visited the accident site, where we met two very helpful Spanish guys (unfortunately I just do not remember who they worked for - it may have been Spantax).  One of the guys became our ‘Mr. Fixit’ and was able to arrange the use of cranes and bulldozers.  The Spanish police had secured the area, so we were not bothered by any outsiders.

Once the site had been surveyed, the team had a meeting to determine the course of action.  We were up against a time constraint because the DC10 tail was just slightly off to the right of the runway centre-line (from an approach point of view) and also was leaning over to the right and to the rear, as can be seen in the photos.  A base was established, including improvised tables and tablecloth for meals, a small bridge for walking across a ditch between where all the equipment was positioned and the tail section.

To enable us to lower the engine, we needed the tail section to be almost upright and as near horizontal as possible.  This was achieved by using a crane to lift the whole of the tail section and bulldozing massive amounts of earth under the starboard tailplane, to use as a support and a working surface under the engine. 

The engine change gear was fitted to the engine.  Some of the airframe structure had to be broken away with axes.  All the engine disconnects were made and with the aid of the bulldozer and spreader boards across the engine exhaust, the engine mount bolts were removed and the engine was slowly lowered, using the bulldozer at the rear to keep it straight and steady, until it was clear of the airframe structure.  We then attached a massive crane to the engine, which we used to swing the engine around and away from the airframe and lowered it and the engine stand on to the road ready for transportation by road to Scotland. 

The engine was removed without any damage and no-one, during the removal, was injured in any way.  The whole operation went like ‘clockwork’.

Once the engine had been secured on the back of the lorry and was on its way, the tailplane was moved off to the side and the crash site was then no longer kept secure. 

If I remember correctly, this whole exercise took about three days.  We only worked during daylight and spent the evenings at a local tourist hotel.  The job was finished on the Saturday, we had a celebration party Saturday evening, and on Sunday morning I went to the airport to arrange with the BCal handling agent our travel home.  On return to the tourist hotel I found the rest of the team sitting around the pool, and when I gave them the good news that I’d got return seats that afternoon, their response was somewhat subdued and they seemed rather disappointed they had to leave so soon! 

On looking around the swimming pool, I began to understand the response!
The newspaper cutting

The newspaper cutting

Ian's letter

Ian's letter

Date of accident:  13th September 1982


I was told by Jimmy Keith, one of the senior Engineering Managers, that Ted Bracey and myself should put together a team to depart as soon as possible for Malaga - to remove the No.2 engine from the crashed Spantax DC10.

Ted and myself then selected the team members, which included Dave Warner, Jim Muskett, Nigel, Geoff and all the other guys.

We had first team meeting with the objective of deciding what equipment we needed to take with us.  All we had to go on was a newspaper picture of the crash site.