As part of the FAA’s #FlySafe campaign, the agency recently released some guidance on incorporating safety into that first flight after your plane comes out of maintenance.
Do you know how to properly preflight your aircraft after maintenance? According to FAA officials, many pilots secretly admit that they don’t quite know what they are looking for. As a pilot and aircraft owner, it is in your best interest to know and understand every component of your aircraft.
And you may think you have even less to worry about after your aircraft comes back from the shop. It should be in great shape, right?
Actually, aircraft just out of maintenance are more likely to have safety-of-flight issues than an aircraft in good condition flown on a daily basis, according to FAA officials.
Something simple shouldn’t cause a problem, but work on multiple systems leaves the door open for more than a few complications.
For example, in-flight emergencies and accidents have occurred with incorrectly rigged flight control or trim systems. Loose bolts or a forgotten connector have led to other tragedies.
It’s best to be on the safe side, know what work has been done, know what you are looking for, and perform thorough preflight checks.
Advanced Preflight Checks
Advanced Preflights go above and beyond the normal preflight checklist. Create your checklist by reviewing the maintenance history of the aircraft, and once you have that information, develop additional items checklist. Once you have made this list, you can use it in all future preflight inspections.
Find and review all aircraft records, including receipts, work orders, FAA Form 337s (Major Repair and Alteration forms) and approval for return to service tags (8130-3 Forms). Find any Supplemental Type Certificate (STC) data, including information on items no longer installed on the aircraft.
Some additional tips:
- Become familiar with all controls and systems before maintenance, and create a baseline. Having this information will make it easier for you to find any “abnormal” functions after maintenance.
- Coordinate with your mechanic to determine exactly what has been accomplished. Give those systems an extra look-over before flight.
- Pay particular attention to the aircraft components that were replaced or repaired. If you suspect a problem, ask your mechanic to recheck the aircraft.
- Be ready to abort takeoff if something doesn’t feel right.
- For the first flight, stay in the pattern within gliding distance to the runway.
“Your safety, and the safety of those who fly with you, depends on your vigilance. Check, ask questions, and recheck,” FAA officials note. “Your life may depend on it.”
Jesse Ford says
I like how you mentioned that you should create a baseline in maintaining your plane’s motor before performing preflight checks. My brother is thinking of looking for an aircraft engine overhaul expert because he noticed the other day before flying that there were some oil leaks coming from his plane. It seems like a good idea for my brother to think about hiring a reputable professional to help him repair his engine so that he can start safely using his aircraft again.
Levi Armstrong says
Huh, I hadn’t realized that when you get your plane back from the shop, it’s actually more likely to have problems than not. I’m thinking of enrolling in a flight training school, actually. I’d love to learn to be able to fly.
Ellie Davis says
It’s interesting to know that advanced preflights go beyond the normal preflight checklist. My father is thinking about when to give maintenance to his aircraft, and we are looking for advice. I will let him know about the benefits of giving maintenance to his aircraft regularly.
JimH in CA says
In responding to a number of the comments;
– No one flies my airplane but me. My insurance doesn’t cover other pilots.
[ A USAF A&P friend was required to fly with the pilot on the 1st flight after maint….kin-of ensures the A&P did all the work correctly and didn’t mess-up any other stuff. ]
– The mechanic I work with has a foam liner in each drawer with cut-outs for each tool.
He makes sure every slot has a tool in it before determining that the work is completed.
– when I work on the airplane I do not allow any tools to be placed on the floor, engine, flight surfaces.
– If you’ve not worked on an aircraft, one usually has to ‘disassemble’ your way in to get at the part/ system that needs work. It’s not like a car where you can open the hood and start working on ‘stuff’.
While working as an A&P in Alaska, my employer who was the IA asked us to always test flight a customers aircraft after an Annual or major repairs. Our customers liked this service and I got more free time in my log book.
Joe Henry Gutierrez says
I still say, ” there is no reason why a A&P needs to be checked over on his work practice, If he is competent enough to take your money when finished he needs to be just as competent to do all the work correctly. This business of checking the work and making sure the airplane is ready for flight is a great big bunch of BS. The more we check the work of A&Ps the more they will be reluctant to do the job right. What I do propose is that we hold back a minimum of $500.00 from the total bill, if you the pilot find a discrepancy on your pre-flight that is not done right or needs attention for safe flight, then that forfeits the $500.00 from the total bill. I guarantee that if we as consumers start doing that, putting the blame where it belongs the A&P mechanic will undoubtedly do a much better job and finish the job correctly and safely, and no more of this nonsense of, ” I was called to the phone, that’s why i didn’t finish the job”, and left it to the pilot to troubleshoot the finished aircraft job.. This passing the buck is a very serious and dangerous thing these people do, being that most pilots don’t know what to look for. Granted there are some very good and thorough A&Ps that do a superb job, I’m not making lite of this, just applying the blame where it belongs. thank you
Marc Rodstein says
It not about blame, smart guy, it’s about not letting someone else’s unintentional mistake take your life! It has nothing to do with money and everything to do with survival. If you fail to do a thorough preflight, you are as much to blame as the mechanic when something goes awry.
Brett Ohnstad says
Although the idea of withholding compensation might work in the automotive world where a failure of a replaced cotter pin might result in a complete loss of all headlight fluid in a vehicle, I do not believe that a penalty based incentive as you described would be particularly useful in a field where peoples lives and their ability to finalize payment on the repair bill are placed at jeopardy due to an unforeseen post-repair mechanical anomaly and not necessarily on a mechanics competent work. Let’s face it, be it new or old, when a muffler bearing decides to seize, it is going to seize. You can’t always lay blame on your mechanic for that. Let’s just hope it is in your moped when it does.
JimH in CA says
Hilarious while still making a great point. Kudos.
When I started my aviation career I owned a plane and flew it work when weather was fit and sometimes when it wasn’t. My employer told me to plan on flight testing every plane we worked on for 100hr/annual inspections along with any radio work another shop on the field had accomplished. I had no problem with that issue as I wanted the diverse experience of other make model aircraft for my own needs. The customers even preferred that we flight test their plane before they came in to pick them up.
It was always better to find the problem before the customer did anyway. It makes you look at everything not just item you corrected.
Jim Macklin says
I once had to take an airline flight about 500 miles to get a Baron that had suffered an in-flight fire.
The engine had been replaced and a ferry permit was waiting for a signature.
I have an ATP and an A&P so I was nominated. I’m also a MEL CFII.
I got to the FBO where the “critical repairs” had been made. The mechanics had signed off “their work.”
I spend several hours on an inspection/pre-flight and about an hour on a run-up.
I signed the ferry permit and departed for a flight VFR home.
At about 2,000 feet AGL I reduced power for the cruise climb. The right engine throttle did not respond. What to do?
I climbed to 6,5000 MSL and let altitude reduce the power. Set the prop at 2400 RPM.
Approaching home base I began arrival. Let ATC know I’d be shutting down one engine. Did not tell them the whole story. throttled the left engine back to zero=thrust [18″/2200 rpm] and reduced the right prop to 2200 rpm.
Declared an emergency 15 miles out and let ATC know again I’d be on one engine so I’d not be asked to follow a CE 150 or go-around.
On a 1/2 mile final I reduced power on the good engine, shut the bad engine down with mixture and feathered the prop. A “normal” single engine landing.
Maybe I should have landed back where I took off? But I knew the weather was good THAT DAY, I knew the airport. and except for a broken cotter that didn’t stay in place, nothing else wasn’t working. All things considered, THAT DAY a 2-1/4 hour flight made more sense than a delay of maybe weeks, another airline flight and fixed in the same shop that didn’t get it right the first time.
I also did not want the stress of another landing on the structure that had had an engine fire.
Terk Williams says
I like this media and seem to be coming a regular in here. As before, I’m a 50+ year aviation (retired… well… semi retired) pro. A&PIA 7,000 hr. Pilot/CFI.
I had a friend who discovered a disconnected aileron on a maint test flt. Another instance where a student was called in from the pattern early one morning. It seems the mag check wasn’t quite right but it flew just fine…. on one mag. The other was still on the bench. The ONLY assumption after maint is that something IS missing/wrong and only your VERY detailed and attentive (another time for that “sterile” [cockpit] environment… pre flight will find it or prove the assumption wrong.
I occasionally teach an offending(misses stuff) student by tying pieces of fluorescent construction tape on three or four places where they SHOULD be looking on pre flight. It’s amazing how often they will miss one or more “obvious” tapes. Go ahead instructors but maybe get a good mech to show you how/where it’s safe and be SURE to use just the very light weight 1” tape tied INTELLIGENTLY… to spots that will not interfere and be sure you REMOVE them before flight….
Troubleshooting the troubleshooters has no perfect answer.
If you don’t own the plane, checking logs is a must before ANY flight you make…but that is not going to keep you out of trouble when a mechanic leaves a screwdriver on the heads or plays with the panel and changes assumed settings. Not to mention a zillion other things that can go wrong.
But probably the best approach is to super preflight every connection and wire-tie, every flap position and control surface. Get in the cockpit and light up the panel and check all the settings, not just the few on a standard preflight check. Start the engine and let it warm up to operating temps and triple check all the engine indicators. Taxi around testing brakes and extending the engine run time for as long as you feel necessary. Put the plane away and let it sit overnight. Look for fuel and oil leaks the next day and do a single pattern and land…roll to a stop off runway and see how the plane idles. Then maybe you are ready…but you won’t see the screwdriver on the heads (or other things left behind or loose) unless it came out during the pattern test and destroyed your prop or you pulled the cowling and checked the engine (something that’s tough to do an large planes).