The Infamous Airplane Story,
by Murray Pevan
At one time during my time in the RAF during the War I was a flying instructor, based at an airfield in Oxfordshire. The function of this unit was to take pilots who had served up till then on single-engined aircraft and convert them onto the more complicated multi-engined types. So, many of my pupils had a lot more previous flying experience than me, and I was the junior instructor in my flight.
One day I was in the air with a pupil who was significantly higher than I was in rank, but nevertheless he was my pupil and I was the commander. It was on a lovely summer's day, just after lunch. We sat side by side in the plane and I suddenly felt the need to relieve my bladder. Normally all you did was to go back into the cabin and open a little hatch on the floor that was there and aim for the middle. I slid my seat back, told the pupil to keep straight and level, keep a good lookout, and to watch the trim as I went back.
I tugged at the hatch but it would not open. I tugged some more and then, desperate, gave up and went to the door. I pulled the handle, but instead of the door opening just a couple of inches against the slipstream -- which would have been sufficient for my needs -- the door suddenly jerked and completely fell away from the plane with me holding tightly onto the handle. Later I was to learn that, unknown to me, they had modified this aircraft so that the door could be jettisoned if the handle was turned more than a certain amount.
There was I, tumbling thru space, seeing alternately the blue of the sky and the green of the fields and, after I had realised my situation, feeling desperately for the parachute ripcord handle. This (of course) was nowhere near where it should have been, but after frenzied searching I found and pulled it.
A moment later I landed with a bang, and eventually recovered to see a jeep with an American soldier racing across the field towards me. I told him my story and asked him to give me a lift back to the airfield. Eventually we arrived back at my flight dispersal, and, as we drew up with me sitting disconsolately with all the parachute fabric wrapped around me, it seemed the whole of the RAF was there to watch.
Eventually my CO came out. He was a tall elegant David Niven-type character and I was the lowest of the low amongst the instructors. He took a moment to size up the situation. There was total silence and then he spoke. I can still hear these words today:
"Hmmm Pevan, and where is our aeroplane, pray?"
I could hardly prevaricate "Please Sir, I fell out, Sir."
"Hmmm, and where was it going when you last saw it?"
"Please Sir, I don't know, Sir"
"Well, you had better go and look for it!"
The upshot was, the pupil did what I had told him to do, he carried on flying straight and level, etc., and only after they called him on the radio did he look round and realise he was alone. Luckily he was experienced and he eventually returned safely.
As for me I never lived it down. I escaped an enquiry and disciplinary action because the modification had not been placarded, but had to pay for a new door. A month later I was promoted!
Murray Pevan, 1923-
Murray E. Pevan, 1923-, son of Mark and Ray Pevan, married Isabelle in 1954 (divorced).
Judith Simone Pevan, 1955-
Susan Phillipa Pevan Lewis, 1955- , married Alan Lewis, 1955-, in 1984
Samantha Joyce Lewis, 1989-
L. to r.: Murray, Valerie, Bee, Larry, Ron (Valerie's husband), Stuart, Diana (Valerie's daughter) at the Beach Chalet, San Francisco, 1997.
With Stuart at Ocean Beach, San Francisco, December 1997
With cousins Valerie and Stuart, winter solstice 1997
Murray with his mother Ray, circa early 1930's
Murray in uniform, 1944
(before falling out of the airplane)
With wife and kids (1960's)
With the twins, 1970's
There may be snow on the roof, but there's still a fire in the furnace (at Stuart's wedding with a Spanish guest, 2001)
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