Bahrain - The Traffic Manual Expert, by David Meyrick (1962)

When I was a duty officer in Bahrain, a keen young fellow station officer came out from head office as a leave relief. His reputation for knowing the traffic manual almost by heart, and being able to quote chapter and verse for many of the regulations, preceded his arrival.

At that time, there was a weekly freighter service operated by a Douglas DC7F, and this arrived from London with equipment for the oil industry and other cargo for the Bahrain market. There was not much return load on offer, as Bahrain was not a manufacturing economy, so the sales people had arranged a favourable rate for returning expatriates to airfreight their cars back to the UK.

The physical loading of the cars was not easy. A large steel pallet was manufactured on which to place the car, which was then forklifted to the height of the aircraft floor. When we first attempted to use it, the pallet was so heavy it remained firmly on the ground, while the rear wheels of the forklift were lifted into the air. Even after extensive modification it was close to the maximum weight the forklift could manage.

The car had to be driven on to the pallet so that the front bumper was behind the front edge of the pallet (otherwise it would strike the aircraft as the pallet was lifted). This meant that the rear was overhanging at the back, and the rear wheels were uncomfortably close to the back edge.

It fell to the duty officer to be at the wheel of the car as it was lifted. I found this a terrifying experience. As the pallet lifted to aircraft sill height, it would start wobbling around, and tilted slightly backwards because the car was not central on the pallet.

The loading crew were already on the aircraft main deck, and when the pallet was level with the floor, they stepped on to it to push the car into the aircraft. This caused more wobbling.

As the front wheels moved onto the aircraft, the pallet lifted and the aircraft dropped. The forklift driver had to adjust the height – more frightening lurching. It was necessary to bounce the car round – with the rear wheels still on that pallet – until it would go in. The exercise was repeated two or three times depending on how many cars there were to load that day, and then came the task of tying them down to the aircraft floor securely, using chains and turnbuckles.

I was in charge of C Shift, and our keen young station officer was in charge of A Shift, who always had the night shift following ours. When next I went on duty, there would be an entry in the logbook from A Shift complaining that the restraint on the cars loaded by C Shift was inadequate. This happened several times, so I determined to be doubly sure that the restraints were properly fitted.

After yet another complaint in the logbook, I confronted the young station officer. “In Traffic Manual General Regulations, regulation 23, section 14, restraint has to be 1½G sideways, upward and rearward, and 3G forward, right?” (Later, restraint became much stricter, with 9G – nine times the weight of the object – forward restraint). “Yes,” I agreed. “Well, said the young station officer, “we found lots of restraint at the back of the car, but not so much at the front. So we took restraint off the back and added it to the front – forward restraint.”

“You clot,” I said. “Forward restraint means stopping the cargo from moving forwards, so the most restraint has to be at the rear of the car.” “Oh, does it?” The complaints in the logbook stopped after that.

A BOAC Douglas DC-7

Image: DC7

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