The bloom of spring is an exciting time for everyone in northern climates, but especially for general aviation pilots who have been waiting all winter long to fire up their engines and return to the skies. But before you do, it’s important to make sure your aircraft is ready to do so.
Preparing your aircraft for flight is important after any long period of inactivity, as failing to do so can have a negative impact on the safety and performance of your plane. Here are 8 tips for bringing your aircraft out of winter storage so you can enjoy smooth, successful flying all spring and summer long.
1. Review your aircraft’s maintenance history
Proper maintenance and inspection of your aircraft are always important to perform at regular intervals, but they’re even more critical when bringing your plane out of winter storage. Apart from ensuring everything is in working order, you’ll also likely need to refresh your memory as to what work was and what work was not done to your aircraft last season.
What repairs and maintenance tasks were done last year? Are there any overdue repairs that should be taken care of before taking off? Is your aircraft in compliance with all necessary Airworthiness Directives? Taking a close look at your recent maintenance history and gaining a full picture of these items is an important first step in getting ready for spring and summer flight.
2. Clean your aircraft (inside and out)
Cleaning the interior and exterior of your aircraft is recommended prior to winter storage to cut down on the buildup of contaminants and to make cleaning in the springtime less of a concern. But even if you did a full cleaning in the fall or winter, it’s still a good idea when gearing up for the new season.
Wash away anything that may have accumulated on your aircraft’s exterior or propellers during the winter months, and tidy up the interior to make sure everything is in order for a smooth and stress-free flight.
3. Change your aircraft’s oil
Just as with cleaning, it’s also a good idea to change the crankcase oil in your plane prior to winter storage, as old oil can contain dirt and other contaminants that can cause rust and corrosion. But as the plane sits full of fresh oil during the winter, many of these same contaminants can still build up and cause damage to your aircraft, so doing a spring oil change is also recommended.
4. Check your aircraft’s fuel system
If your aircraft was stored in a hangar during the winter, there may be a small amount of condensation in the fuel tanks – and this is even more likely if your aircraft was stored outside. The best way to remedy this is to sump your plane’s fuel tanks a few times while rocking the plane between each sump. This should get most or all of the water out.
Other spring fuel system tasks include:
- Checking the condition of the fuel tanks
- Checking the fuel lines and fuel valve for damage or leaks
- Checking the fuel drains for water or other foreign substances
5. Check your aircraft’s battery and electrical
Apart from removing and inspecting your aircraft’s battery roughly every 50 hours of use, you should also check it when gearing up for springtime flying. Check the condition of the battery leads and of the mounting system to ensure they are still capable of getting you safely through the summer. If your battery’s condition is in question, it should be replaced.
Your plane’s electrical components should also be checked to make sure nothing was lost during the winter cold. This includes checking circuits, breakers, wiring, radio, and antenna.
6. Inspect your aircraft’s tires
Just like car tires, aircraft tires can lose pressure over time – especially amid frequent temperature swings like those experienced during the spring months. When taking your aircraft out of storage, make sure its tires are at the correct PSI as recommended by the manufacturer, usually located in the POH.
You should also visually inspect the tires for signs of tread wear or bald spots, in addition to inspecting strut condition and the wheel brake assembly for signs of leaks.
7. Inspect your aircraft’s moving parts
Assessing the condition and performance of your aircraft’s internal components is of paramount importance, but you should also take a close look at exterior and moving parts such as wings, propellers, and landing gear to make sure nothing is loose, damaged, or dirty.
8. Prepare your aircraft for summer storage
We’ve talked about the importance of preparing for winter storage, but there are also a number of concerns to keep in mind when storing your aircraft between flights during the summer months. Because of the warmer weather and increase in unpredictable precipitation, storing your plane outside between flights can cause a number of headaches for pilots.
In the spring, it’s not uncommon to find birds beginning to nest in your engine compartment, tail cone, or elsewhere on the aircraft. Because of this, you should thoroughly check these areas prior to each flight to make sure a fellow flying friend isn’t trying to call your plane home.
Springtime is also known for its increased precipitation. If parking your plane outside, a canopy cover can work well to protect its paint and windows during heavy wind and rainfall.
The excessive heat of summertime can also pose a long-term threat to your aircraft, particularly to the interior. Utilizing a sun shade can help protect the cabin from rising temps when parked outside during the dog days of summer.
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