Another currency check, and a minor technical hitch

After regaining Club and passenger currency on my last flight with Roger, I was keen to add my Arrow currency to that list. A late cancellation meant that the Arrow was free this weekend, and Kev (the Arrow’s owner) was also available to fly with me. While Kev is not an Instructor, he is authorised by the Club to carry out currency checks on pilots, as long as they are legal to carry passengers.

Initially I planned a relatively simple local Nav via Lyneham and the Severn Bridges, but when I met Kev on the morning of the flight he suggested trying to spot a couple of grass strips in the area too (Bowldown and Chavenage). This seemed like a good way to practice some visual Nav skills (something that I tend to neglect when flying with SkyDemon in my lap!), so Kev made a note of their approximate location on the chart and we headed off to Kemble.

The Arrow had recently had a few niggly technical issues notified, which Kev was keen to sort out before we flew. I helped Kev (i.e. passed him tools and helped remove the cowling!) change the injectors on the aircraft (also giving me my first real view of the Arrow’s engine) and we then got the aircraft ready for flight before heading in to the Club to complete the pre-flight paperwork.

I was supposed to be the Duty Member that day, but as mine was the only flight planned I persuaded Luned to provide the ‘flight watch’ duties for our flight. We completed the pre-flight paperwork and walked out to the aircraft. As we approached, Kev had me tell him what sort of things I’d be doing during various emergency drills (gear failure, smoke in the cockpit, engine failure etc.), and this turned out to be remarkably prescient on his part!

We boarded the aircraft, got ourselves settled in and then started up the engine after receiving start clearance from the FISO. Taxy and power checks were all straightforward, and the airfield was quiet as we reported ready at Alpha 1. We were cleared straight on to the runway, and then to depart as we were lined up.

The wind was relatively strong and gusty, but fortunately pretty much straight down the runway, so the take off roll and rotation were relatively easy. I remembered to dab the brakes before retracting the gear, and then we turned South to head towards Lyneham which I’d planned as the start of the route.

As we passed through around 1200 feet Kev said, ‘Can you smell fuel?’. Once he’d mentioned it, I became aware of a very slight smell of fuel, and we briefly discussed what to do. Given that we’d just changed the injectors, we both agreed it was prudent to abort the flight, and return to investigate. I notified the FISO that we had a ‘smell of fuel in the cockpit’, and that we were returning. After a quick look over my shoulder to confirm our exact position, I decided to join Left Base, and set about positioning the aircraft appropriately, running through the before landing checks as I did so.

Due to being higher than normal, I positioned us on a fairly wide left base for Kemble’s runway 26. Looking at the GPS track, it looks like I didn’t fully appreciate my location, as this put us pretty much overhead Oaksey at around circuit height. This obviously wasn’t a great idea, but in reality I was keeping a good lookout all around us, and Oaksey’s circuit is to the South of the airfield anyway.

The smell of fuel had all but disappeared as we continued towards the airfield, perhaps due to the fact that we were now on a much lower power setting. I neglected to take account of the Southerly component of the strong wind, meaning I went slightly through the extended centreline when turning Final, but this was easily corrected and I brought us in for a relatively firm landing.

I requested taxy back to our parking area, and the FISO asked us if we needed any assistance. As there was no longer a smell of fumes or any indication of fire or other issue, I declined this and we backtracked and taxyed back towards Hotel site. As we turned onto the Alpha taxyway I noticed the airfield’s fire engine on the runway, and they followed us as we taxyed to park and shutdown. It was nice to know that should we have had an issue, they would have been quickly on hand should we have needed them.

The fire service waited as we removed the cowling and Kev checked for any evidence of a fuel leak around the engine. Finding nothing, we then carried out an engine run with the cowling off in order to see if the leak was only apparent when the fuel was under pressure. Again, this didn’t show anything obvious. As there was obviously no imminent danger of a fuel spillage, we thanked the fire crew for coming to our assistance, and they headed back.

Kev then had an idea to check inside the cockpit, as the fuel pipes go to both a fuel pressure and fuel flow gauge on the instrument panel. Using my phone as a torch, he looked up under the instrument panel and finally spotted the cause of the issue. The pipe going into the fuel flow gauge was noticeably wet, and when he retrieved a spanner it was clear that this was not fully tightened. He tightened it correctly, and we again tested the system to see if there was any apparent leak remaining, which thankfully there wasn’t.

Happy that he had found the cause of the problem, Kev suggested we continue the flight, and I was happy to do this. We pushed the aircraft back a few feet to enable us to turn it round easily, and then got ourselves settled back in. Before starting up we took the time to review the ‘fumes in cockpit’ drill we’d talked about earlier, as Kev mentioned that I’d forgotten to do this when we actually had an indication of fumes! Fortunately we’d already covered most of the actions required (which basically amounts to closing off any heater vents, and opening up fresh air vents). The heater was off anyway, and I had already opened the floor level vent on my side before taking off as it was a warm day. Kev opened his once he was aware of the fuel smell, but I should also have opened the DV window on my side.

I was a little nervous that the engine may prove difficult to start due to flooding due to the amount of fuel we’d been pumping through it looking for leaks, but it actually started relatively easily. We repeated the taxy and power checks as per the previous flight, and again took to the runway and departed without any problems. We were both checking for any signs of fuel odour during the climb, but none was present so we continued the flight happy in the knowledge that the problem appeared to have been resolved.

We’d already decided that we wouldn’t complete the planned Nav flight, simply flying over Hullavington (where both of us would be attending the Emergency Services Show the next day) and then try to find the two grass strips Kev had suggested earlier that morning. Hullavington is always easy to find, and I set course for the field expecting to find preparations for the show to be in full swing. In fact there didn’t seem to be much happening at all, so it was impressive that they’d managed to get everything ready in time for when we visited the show the next day!

Overhead Hullavington

Overhead Hullavington

We carried out a clockwise orbit of the airfield after checking that there was no sign of any glider activity, converting the turn to a steeper one to enable Kev to get some photos of the site. We then dug out the chart and tried to determine the best way to find the two grass strips at Bowldown and Chavenage. Both were close to the main road running out of Tetbury, so we identified the town and headed towards it, before turning towards the crossroads that was a good landmark to look for the first.

After a bit of hunting, I spotted the first strip (Bowldown) off to our left. It looked to have two good length strips (SkyDemon later showed that they were 550m and 750m) with one leading towards some buildings that probably included a hangar. After a quick loop around, we headed back towards Tetbury to locate the other strip.

This one proved somewhat easier to spot, and as we passed to the North Kev announced ‘Oh no, it looks like the engine has failed!’, pulling back the throttle to idle as he did so. I was a little slow in getting the aircraft down to its best glide speed (which in the Arrow is significantly below the cruising speed, unlike the Warrior!) and made a somewhat poor attempt at running through the restart checks.

I didn’t bother to look for a field to land in, as I knew that I had a decent grass strip off to our right. Kev announced ‘The strip is just passing behind the right wing’ as we passed, which I should have recognised as a fairly blatant hint that he thought I was heading too far away from it! I turned back to position for the into wind runway, and it soon became clear that I was probably going to end up a little short. It’s always important to remember when carrying out a PFL that there are a number of way to lose excess height, but no way to regain it!

We decided then to return to Kemble, so I quickly entered a ‘direct to’ into the 430 to orient myself, and with that and the ADF needle turned the aircraft onto approximately the correct heading. I announced our position to the FISO, and headed for the long runway I had spotted on approximately the right heading. There was another aircraft approaching from the North to join overhead for 26, so I also positioned myself with the runway off to my left to set up for an Overhead join.

Kev asked whether Kemble were now on 08, which again I should have realised was a pretty blatant hint! I corrected him, and set about positioning for the join, but as I continued I had a nagging doubt that the runway I’d spotted wasn’t Kemble after all, which soon became confirmed as I looked over to our right to spot the real Kemble! I had made the mistake of orienting on Aston Down (which is apparently quite common, but not a mistake I’ve made before!), leading to Kev’s questioning of my positioning.

Correcting the mistake was simple, I just turned right and crossed over the 08 threshold at 2000 feet AAL, before turning left to cross the threshold of 26 and begin my descent. We spotted the other joining aircraft well below us, it appeared he actually joined Crosswind rather than Overhead. We followed him around the circuit. He was well clear of the runway by the time we turned Final, and the wind was noticeably gusty as we continued. Kev questioned my use of full flap, which was a valid point given the gusty conditions. I retracted the final stage of flap at about 400 feet, before bringing us down for a nice gentle landing.

I requested a backtrack and taxy, which was granted, and there was a little confusion as we were warned to hold before exiting the runway due to opposite direction traffic. This turned out to be someone on the Golf grass taxyway, and the FISO later changed his mind and asked them to hold, as we would otherwise have been stuck on the runway waiting for them. We taxyed back and refuelled, before pushing the aircraft back into its parking space. Kev laid out the aircraft cover on the ground to dry as we headed in to the Club to settle the paperwork. We then returned to cover the aircraft before heading to the local pub for some lunch and a debrief!

First flight track

First flight track


First flight profile

First flight profile


Second flight track

Second flight track


Second flight profile

Second flight profile

It was good to fly with Kev again. He’s extremely knowledgeable and a pleasure to fly with, with the added benefit of still being unafraid to point out any problems in my flying. Hopefully our next flight can be something a little more interesting, although I could probably do without any further technical issues during flight!

Total flight time today: 1:00
Total flight time to date: 276:05

One Response to “Another currency check, and a minor technical hitch”

  1. 2015 Summary | Andy's Blog Says:

    […] flights (including a total of 5 currency checks!, 1 solo local and a flight offered as a raffle prize to raise funds for Catrin’s […]

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