Discuss the problems and solutions to all of the situations that Pilot X finds himself in.
Flying into dreamland

Richard Boswell tells the tale of Pilot X, a beautiful Spring day and a non-starting Chipmunk

The thing he loved most about this particular aeroplane was the smell. It looked good too – the silver paint scheme of the flying training squadron gave the Chipmunk a distinguished look, befitting its fine pedigree. And boy, did it fly well! Maybe the engine was a little underpowered, but the perfectly-balanced, smooth controls made gentle aerobatics truly rewarding. But it was definitely the smell that did it for Pilot X. Whenever he pulled back the canopy, the waft of ageing leather, along with the oil, fuelled his imagination. He would gaze dreamily into the cockpit, stare at the big dials and imagine that he was about to strap into a Spitfire with a 1,000hp Merlin.
X had owned the Chipmunk for two months now and without doubt it was the best investment he had ever made. He had just ten Chipmunk hours in his logbook – his first tailwheel experience – but he already knew that he was set for a summer of exciting flying. Having checked the switches were off, X jumped off the wing and stood back and gazed at the aircraft again. After this further trip into the imaginary world of fighter planes, he returned to reality and began his walkround.
The fine weather had turned the strip into a hive of activity. There were at least two other pilots preparing their aircraft for flight, while more arrived to clean and tinker with their machines. The south-easterly breeze added to the pleasantly relaxed atmosphere. Pilot X waved to the group lifting the cowling on the neighbouring Auster, then jumped into the front seat and pulled up the canopy.
Now he couldn’t see much in front of him. The skyward-pointing nose obscured his forward visibility, but the 1940s design gave it that feel of an authentic, vintage aircraft which X loved so much... He stopped dreaming and began the cockpit checks. He started at the left side and worked his way around the cockpit, as he had been taught, his eyes following his hands. Finally he had a good look around outside and shouted, “Clear prop!” just to make sure.
The only new switch in the aircraft was the red button for the electric starter, fitted as a mod when the aircraft retired from military service, replacing the old cartridge starter. He hit the button and the propeller began to rotate. Ordinarily the 50-year-old Gypsy Moth kicked into life on the first turn but today she seemed asleep and refused to play. After 20 seconds X took his finger off the button and scratched his head.
“Come on, old girl.” He’d found that talking to his aircraft had worked in the past. He hit the starter button again. This time he turned it over for a good 30 seconds, still without any hint of life as he gradually opened up the throttle. X was getting embarrassed. The battery was beginning to give up the ghost and people were looking over to see what the problem was. He ran his eyes around the cockpit again. The fuel was on, the switches were correct, the mixture was rich and the throttle was about half open. He could smell the fuel, so it was definitely getting to the engine. He tried one last time, turning the engine over for another 20 seconds before the battery retired from active service.
His efforts had gained the attention of the group working on the Auster. As X unstrapped and lifted himself from the cockpit, two middle-aged gentlemen wandered across. “What seems to be the problem, lad?” one of them asked. X explained that he had never been let down by this faithful old girl before.
“Ah, but I bet you never tried to start her with the rear switches turned off either have you?” the other pilot commented as he leant into the rear cockpit and flicked the ignition switched on.
X felt suitably humbled and embarrassed. Why hadn’t he thought of that? The two gentlemen had a good-natured laugh at X’s expense, before reassuring him that there were two types of Chipmunk owner; those who had attempted to start the engine with the rear switches turned off, and those who had lied. The banter continued before X enquired whether either of them knew how to replace the battery, so that he could take it away and charge it.
“No need, jump in the back lad. I’ll pull the prop through a couple of times and give you a
hand start.”
His spirits lifted. If he could get his pride and joy running now, there was still some daylight left in which he could restore some juice to his depleted battery. As X clambered aboard again, the two helpers commented on the state of the Chipmunk’s engine. It was well and truly flooded and they would need to pull the prop though a couple of times to clear the carb.
As X climbed into the seat, his kindly helper positioned himself such that he had a good purchase on the propeller, and gave it a good back swing. The propeller swung back in its usual direction of rotation and burst into life. X was thrown into the seat as the aircraft lunged forward, overriding the brakes as the engine wound itself up.
Fortunately both helpers were sprightly enough to dive for the ground as the shiny Chipmunk rolled towards their parked Auster. By the time X realised what was happening, it was too late to have any hope of avoiding the inevitable. The aircraft lunged forward with X applying full rudder and closing the throttle as quickly as he could.
The sound of the Chipmunk’s wingtip hitting the nose bowl of the Auster was followed by a deathly silence. ■

1 What cardinal sin did X commit when he left the aircraft to investigate the problem?
2 What do you need to ascertain from the pilot at the controls before attempting to swing a propeller?
3 Shouting ‘contact’ signifies what to the ground crew? And what should be the accompanying gesture to avoid any confusion in a noisy environment?
User avatar
By KNT754G
1. Left the magnetos live
2. Fuel on, Brakes on, Throttles closed, switches all OFF
3. I do not know this one.
User avatar
By Neil MacG
"Contact" should be shouted first by the prop swinger to indicate he is ready for engine start. The pilot should switch the magnetos on and then confirm this has been done by shouting "Contact" and indication with the "Thumbs Up" hand signal.

And as an Auster driver I'm very upset about the outcome of this particular incident!

User avatar
By kanga
KNT754G wrote:1. ..
2. Fuel on, Brakes on, Throttles closed, switches all OFF
3. ...

.. +chocks .. ? [Chippie brakes not always reliable - are any ?]