Before you take that wonderful first flight of the spring season, you need to clean, inspect, and lubricate your aircraft. If your airplane has been sitting outside, there’s all the more reason for a thorough check. Even if your airplane has been wintering in a hangar, it will take more than a normal preflight to get your airplane safely back in the air.
Clean: Grease, bugs, bird droppings, dirt, salt, and more can all stick to your airplane’s outside surface. Your airplane needs a thorough bath. That means using cleansers specifically designed for aircraft surfaces, including special cleaners for gently cleaning Plexiglas. As you clean by hand, you can do an inch-by-inch inspection of paint chips, dents, or anything amiss that will need further attention.
Once you clean the outside of your airplane, it’s time to tackle the inside. Remove anything that has spent the winter inside your airplane. That means pens, flashlights, charts, bags, boxes, oil cans, batteries, books, sweaters, blankets, water bottles—anything that is loose in the cabin. Vacuum the interior. Wipe down everything else. Clean the inside of the windows. And before you return all that miscellany to your airplane, go through it. If that flashlight only works sporadically or that water bottle is old, chuck it and start fresh for the season.
Aircraft owners also can remove the engine cowling and clean the engine, the mount, and inside the cowl. Do this by hand, and wear gloves.
Inspect: You inspected the surfaces of your airplane when you were cleaning it, but now it is time to look for leaks and corrosion. Look for blue staining around the fuel hoses, which can indicate a leak. Check the drains on your fuel pump. Take a soft cloth and rub gently over the control cables to see if the cloth catches anywhere on the cable. If it does, it’s a sign of wear and possible fraying. Look at your pitot tube covers and tiedown equipment as well.
Lubricate: Your airplane should have a lubrication chart that lists the parts that need to be lubricated and with what lubrication. This might vary from heavy grease to a dry lubricant that won’t attract dust or dirt.
And what about you? How much review you need before your first flight of the season depends on your experience level. If you have 200 hours and haven’t flown for five months, you are going to need to review the basics, including airspace designations. You may want to hire a flight instructor to sharpen your skills. More experienced pilots might not need to do that, but it’s a personal decision.
Clean out your flight bag as well. Check your charts to make sure they are current. Make sure the database on your GPS is updated too. You may want to use new batteries for anything you fly with that has an on/off switch such as flashlights, headsets, and handheld radios.
When it’s time to do that first flight preflight, take special care with your checklist. What was deeply ingrained as second nature in the fall is no longer top of mind. It’s a good time to rely more heavily on your checklists. This preparation will be worth it once the wheels lift off and you’re airborne. The long winter’s wait is over, and you’re flying again.
Whatever airplane you are flying, AOPA Insurance has the right policy for you. For more information or to request a free quote on aircraft insurance, please call AOPA Insurance Services at 800/622-2672 or visit aopainsurance.org. Don’t forget: You may qualify for a 5-percent discount just for being an AOPA member.