Cobwebs and Flying Don't Mix
by Ellen Paneok
reprinted with permission of FAA Aviation News
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