Pilots, it’s coming up on springtime and the season to fly is upon us. We shake ourselves from our winter sleep, ready to take on the warmer skies. That means preparing our airplanes and ourselves by getting the cobwebs out, so to speak.
Remember that if your aircraft has been sitting all winter, it needs to be thoroughly checked over before you take it out for your first springtime flight. I know that Alaska’s long winters provide snow and sometimes windstorms that can play havoc with your plane. Snow can lodge in the elevator hinges and the air inlet of the cowling. Foreign matter can be blown into the pitot tube and radio vents or they could be plugged with ice and/or snow.
The first preflight should be a very thorough one. Check the elevator and rudder for full play, windstorm damage or lodged ice can limit full movement and create a potential hazard. Check the stabilizer hinge points for lodged ice. Also check for distortion or cracks on all surfaces. Make sure the control cables are properly attached and not frayed or loose. In a fabric aircraft, check for wrinkled surfaces from possible windstorm or heavy snow damage. On the wings, check the wing attach points, flaps, and aileron hinges for cracks. Again, check for full travel of the controls. Check the tires for weather checking. Check the fuel vents to make sure they are not clogged with foreign matter. Don’t be shy about draining at least a pint of fuel from all fuel drains and the lowest point in your fuel system to check for water and impurities that may have accumulated throughout the winter months. On the cowling, check for windblown foreign objects in the air intakes and the prop spinner. Check the air filter to make sure that it is not clogged.
Preflight yourself as well your aircraft. Remember that you might have some cobwebs of your own to work out before starting your flying season. Pilots should perform a preflight on themselves after a season of not flying. A flight review may be in order. Or you might spend some time with an instructor to shore up your proficiency before going out and stretching your “wings” for the first time of the season. You may want to refresh yourself with the Federal Aviation Regulations and any changes that may have been made. You also should check current NOTAMS, sectional charts, and Airport Facility Directories for any changes that may have occurred at the destination airports. In fact, a call to not only your destination airport, but also your home airport, might not be a bad idea either to see if anything new has happened since you were last there.
Remember not to allow the mind set that flying is like riding a bicycle-once you jump in the saddle everything will automatically come to you. It takes practice to get yourself back up to your original proficiency level.
In closing, remember those cobwebs. Remember to do a complete and thorough preflight of your airplane if you haven’t flown it all winter. Be sure to remember to preflight yourself as well and have a good and safe season of flying.
*Ellen Paneok is an Operations Inspector at the Anchorage Flight Standards District Office. Her article originally appeared in the FAA Alaskan Flyer.