Spring Back into the Cockpit! – 5 Great Ways to Prepare for the Flying Season

Trever
Trever

Trever Rossini is the owner of Inflight Pilot Training and Citadel Aircraft Maintenance at Flying Cloud Airport (FCM) in Eden Prairie, Minnesota.

The skies are clearing, the flowers are blooming, the birds are chirping, and finally, the snow has melted. As one of the coldest winters on record is coming to an end, those who have a passion for flying can finally take back to the skies! In order to be safe and to make the most out of your springtime flights, consider these five useful tips to prepare for the flying season.

Check your aircraft’s maintenance history.

If you are like most people, you cannot remember minute details from yesterday, not to mention last fall. It is possible that you have put off maintenance and repairs that you do not recall with the intention of handling such issues in the spring. To ensure that you are in compliance with legally required safety repairs and that you are safely taking to the skies, it is important to delve into the documents and completely review the aircraft maintenance history and then complete any necessary services or repairs. Be sure to review the aircraft’s operating manual as well in order to make sure you are keeping up with recommended maintenance schedules.

Check for any structural damage to the aircraft.

Hopefully, your aircraft spent the brutal winter in a hangar where it was not exposed to extreme elements, but even properly stored planes should be examined closely for cracks, dents, or other structural issues before returning to the skies. All seals and gaskets should be checked for cracks or other signs of corrosion that can be caused by extreme temperature changes. All intakes, ports, and vents should be inspected and cleared of any debris that could cause problems.

Check the fuel system, electrical system, tires, flight equipment, and landing gear.

In order to protect your engine and the life of your plane, the oil should be changed, and the fuel system should be flushed and thoroughly examined before flight. The fuel filter should be replaced, the fuel tanks should be checked for moisture and overall condition, and any previously installed vent covers should be removed.  Additionally, all fuel lines, valves, drains, and gauges should be examined.

Determine the age of your battery and replace it if it is in poor condition or has aged. Also, check leads for corrosion and tighten the mount. Lastly, make sure all of the electronic components and wiring is secure and functional.

Tires can dry rot over time, and tire pressure is directly affected by weather changes. The integrity of the tires should be inspected and then restored to the proper psi as determined by the manufacturer. Additionally, the condition of the brake system requires inspection.

The propeller, wings, and fins need to be clean and tightened and in proper working order, as should the landing gear. This is of primary safety importance, so if there is any doubt, consider using a professional mechanic to make any adjustments or repairs.

Review all documents and checklists.

It is time to crack open your Pilot Operation Handbook and refresh your mind to be fully prepared for flight. This includes a review of the aircraft and all its systems, weight and balance procedures, operating limitations, normal procedures, emergency procedures, and performance. Once you have finished this task, be sure to put your handbook back in your aircraft, along with your pilot’s license and medical card. Take time to completely review your logbook and place it with your other documents. Additionally, make sure your registration is up to date as well as your certification of airworthiness.

Locate any and all checklists that you will require for pre-flight checks and the flight itself. Take time to review them and make sure all of these documents are accurate and readily available for your use.

Prepare your cockpit and re-familiarize yourself with the plane and airspace.

It has probably been several months since you sat in the cockpit of your aircraft, so it is important to make sure everything is to your liking for stress-free flight time. Spend some time in the cockpit to re-familiarize yourself with all the dials, buttons, and gauges. Make any adjustments that are necessary for your comfort and be sure to remove any possible distractions. Make absolutely certain that all items are secured and that nothing has been dropped that could later become a safety hazard. Take time to do a dry run with your checklist to prepare mentally for your first spring flight.  Last but not least, take time to review airspace, frequencies, and even airports you might use so you are not trying to tackle this task mid-flight.

Now that you have prepared yourself and your aircraft, you can confidently spring back into the cockpit for hours of fabulous flying fun!

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