As springtime's warm temperatures ease their way across the country, many aircraft owners are ready to go flying. But wait! If your aircraft has been idle throughout the wintertime, you can't just jump in the airplane and go. You'll want to take a good hard look at your airplane to make sure it's weathered the winter, and your first preflight of the year should be especially careful. Walk around the airplane and check the wings, tail, and empennage thoroughly. If it's been tied down outside, look for damage that might have occurred while you weren't around - a ding or a chip caused by flying debris. Scope out possible broken pieces or missing screws. Check the pressure of the tires. Remember that springtime's fluctuating temperatures can cause a change in tire pressure. Conduct a thorough investigation of your fuel tanks. You'll be looking for signs of fuel contamination, particularly if the airplane has been sitting with not much fuel in its tanks; condensation may have formed. Be sure to check all of your airplane's fuel sumps in the process. Of course, you'll want to inspect the airplane for telltale signs that birds, rodents, or insects are living in your bird. Look for nests and bits of hay and grass around the tailcone and wings, and remove the cowling - birds can and do build nests in the engine compartment. Moving to the inside of the airplane, take a moment to check that the aircraft's airworthiness certificate is visible and on board, along with the registration certificate and the pilot's operating handbook or flight manual. Top it all off with a good washing and degreasing of the airplane's belly. For more good ideas on getting your airplane ready for spring, see Steve Ells' " Flying Seasons: Spring Cleaning" in the March 2007 AOPA Pilot, and the AOPA Air Safety Foundation's Spring Preflight Safety Hot Spot.
April 19, 2007