Meanwhile the fuel had been igniting behind the engines, giving the passengers with window seats the rare treat of what appeared to be four engines on fire! At 14,000ft and with the passenger oxygen masks in use, Eric thought he should have a word with them. He told the passengers: 'We have a small problem. All four engines have stopped. We are all doing our damnedest to get them going again. I trust you are not in too much distress.'
The next twist in the drama came as Eric contemplated a 'deadstick' touchdown on the sea. As a boy his father had taken him to Hythe Pier in Kent to watch the flying boats land. But Eric was well aware that flying boats did not land at night for one good reason: the difficulty of judging height above the water.
As he was agonising over this issue there was sudden jubilation as the No.4 engine restarted, then the other three engines started again about a minute and a half later. It was 13:57 hrs and they had by then descended to 12,000ft.
But the nightmare was not yet over. They requested clearance to Jakarta and climbed to 15,000ft, at which height the St Elmo's fire broke out again and the No.2 engine began to surge continually, and had to be shut down as it was shaking the aircraft severely.
They were cleared to Jakarta airport and the final problems in the drama were played out. The glide path information for the runway they had been given at Jakarta was not available. Moreover, it was only with great difficulty that the runway lights could be picked out, and were only eventually spotted to the right of the aircraft out of the co-pilot's side window.
When they lined up with the runway, the lights disappeared again - the front windows were almost opaque.
More about Freemason
As a Freemason, Eric found flying aircraft helpful. He joined West Gate Lodge No 7387, which meets in the village of Totton on the edge of the New Forest, in October 1979. He says. 'There are quite a number of pilots in
Freemasonry. You spend hours
in hotel rooms and around hotel pools and Freemasonry gave us something to do. You would get out your little blue ritual book
and have someone test you with the words.'
He spent six years as a lodge steward and then held every other office and did not go into the chair until May 1993.
Currently he is in his third year as Director of Ceremonies. This, too, involves him in a lot of travel as he attends practice once a month as well as seven meetings - all held 52 miles away. In 1995 he became a Provincial Grand lodge Steward in Hampshire and the Isle of Wight, and in 2000 was Provincial Senior Grand Warden.
A member of the Royal Arch, he joined Gothic Chapter No. 5525, a london Chapter, in February
1981. He was First Principal for three consecutive years - with dispensation to do so - from 1999 to 2001.
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