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Monday, June 10, 2013

Tire Change pt 2

The #4 main landing gear tire of the Douglas DC-8 was square on the end of my left boot
I yelled and swore at the top of my lungs
Both to try to attract attention to myself
And to express the sharp pain I was feeling in my toes

I couldn't pull my foot free
Nor could I lift the tire off of my foot
Given that it was still attached to umpteen thousand pounds of aircraft
But I sure did try both options

The old bottle jack was sitting under the jacking lug still
With a puddle of red hydraulic fluid around it
There was even a black o-ring seal sticking out
Right where two of the jack's cylinders slid together

I had a radio in the truck cab
But it might as well be on the other side of the Earth
As much good as it did me only fifteen feet away

I took my flashlight out of my pocket
And turned it on
Waving it in the direction of the main terminal
Which was a dark silhouette a half mile away

I didn't get any reaction from that direction
Assuming there was anyone in a position to see even

The two janitors had likely gone home by now
Leaving the single security guard at the front office
Who was supposed to do checks on the terminal every hour
And a drive around the airport as well

But we all knew he seldom did either
After all, what happens out here in the sticks?

My foot had reduced the pain to a throbbing beat
In time with my heartbeat

I hugged the tire with both arms
Pressing my forehead into the top tread
What was I going to do?

A glance at my watch showed me ten minutes after two
Leaving almost six hours before I could expect day-shift to come out to the plane
Nobody would be over to this parking ramp until then
I'd bet on it

The throbbing of my foot kept my thoughts in a rhythm almost
In time with the heartbeat that drove it
Like an engine pushing an airplane along with thrust

What - am - I - going - to - do - oh - my - god - this - hurts - wait - maybe - I - could.......

Just then
I thought of maybe deflating the tire in place

Doing so would make the other three tires on the bogie assume more of the weight of the airplane
Thereby lessening the weight on my foot

But would it be enough to make any measurable difference?

I had a valve stem tool in my pocket
Having put it there before I'd even gotten in the truck to come out here
It's presence a pressing little bulge in my pocket

I took it out
Looking at it in the light of my flashlight
Which was getting a little dim by this point

A little knurled aluminum knob about an inch in diameter
With a little stem off the bottom
That was slotted to interface with the valve  stem

Reaching down
I unscrewed the yellow brass valve stem cap
Putting it into my pocket out of habit
Before sticking my removal tool into the end of the stem

Unscrewing it carefully
I got ready to try to catch the stem
As the almost 200 psi of pressure in the tire would be throwing it at me any second
Cupping one hand sort of around the area

Sure enough
the valve stem came free with a little 'pop!'
Flying out just past my face
Into the darkness of the ramp area
Likely never to be found again

The pressurized nitrogen from inside the tire whistled out deafeningly
Blowing it's stale rubber tire bad breath right at me
Forcing me to hold my face to the side and look away as best I could
Plugging both my ears with my fingers

I could feel something changing
The feel of the tire on my foot was shifting
And not very pleasantly

There was new pain on top of the old pain now
As the tire started changing shape without the pressure inside of it
Making me yell some more
Perhaps disturbing a distant coyote or farm animal
But otherwise causing no notice to anyone else

I pulled away from the tire as it deflated
Pulling with my trapped leg
Pushing with my arms and legs
Alternating different methods of push-pull as things went

Within a minute or so
The tire was deflated
No more air escaped it's stem

Thirty seconds after that
I was on my back on the ground
With the leg attached to the trapped foot flexed to keep undue pressures off of it
But everything else flat on the ground

Feeling defeated by this rubber monster of a tire
Trapping me to the ground for it's own amusement

I turned off my flashlight
And had a good think about things