No need for a full preflight

When I was working for the flight school back in the day, some of my customers, who own their own aircraft, always gave me a hard time for doing way too detailed of a preflight. They called it “a mechanic’s preflight”, which actually hits the nail on the head. Those of you who reside in the States and watch TV, are surely familiar with the insurance commercial that has the tag line “We know a thing or two, because we’ve SEEN a thing or two.” That’s how it is when you are an aircraft mechanic. You see too many things. It makes you trust people less.

Of course, if the aircraft is your own, hangared in your own hangar, and you are the only one ever touching it, there might be a few things on the preflight you may browse through a little quicker. You probably remember where you left your headsets, and what your seat position is, seat belts, that sort of thing. I see that. But since I am the contract CFI and haven’t seen their aircraft in a while, I always take extra time to look over it.

And today I fly a helicopter that is too big to preflight for just one guy. It would take me all day. But what we do as a crew is switch things around so everybody pre-flights a different portion of the aircraft every day. However, should I happen to actually find something on my pre-flight, it just got longer since my inner Julio immediately comes out and now, I want to check as much of the entire aircraft as I can. The confidence in the night shift is gone and the hackles are up. I feel common sense must be applied when doing a preflight. No need to open the fridge every 2 hours to see if the light inside still comes on, but the way Chuck goes about it, is definitely not the way to go either. Somewhere in the middle maybe?

How do you guys feel about the subject?

Also, we have seen a lot of new patrons sign up to support our animation project in the last 2 weeks. I sincerely want to thank all you new supporters for joining us in our quest. We will have new updates on the projects soon, and we couldn’t do this with out you. We really appreciate you guys!


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10 comments on “No need for a full preflight
  1. Ian Davidson says:

    I do a pre-flight every time I fly my models. Built a FG1 Phantom(ish) and every so often one of the fans does not spool up so have to do a run up first to check them if not it goes into to stuck fan and crunch. Got caught out once when doing a pre-flight on a 1/10th scale fun-fighter Spitfire, got distracted by some one asking me a lot of questions about out and missed that the ailerons where reversed. Got a hand launch,once it had speed and height tried to turn, it went the opposite direction and crunched it. Was not happy since it was at the time a good flier.

  2. Richard says:

    When I was training for my instrument rating, I did the preflight on the aircraft. After I looked it over, I went back inside of the FBO and told my instructor we can fly as soon as they fix the airplane. He looked at me with a strange look on his face and wanted to know what I was talking about. I told him it was leaking. Yep, there was a puddle of engine oil around the nose gear. Oops…

  3. Magnus Danielson says:

    So, in my line of business, we design telecom equipment. We do tons of test on our code as we design things and fix things, these are run regularly and automatically. There is at least 3 levels of tests before release test. Often we have some more elaborate code test where not all is run in autotests, we can do special lab tests, etc. Releases is limited release, functional relese, general release and long time support release. Many of our customers only use LTS. Some only use it after their own testing. Only then it is rolled out into the network with elaborate decision process to allocate service window. Besides testing we love monitoring, collect statistics, automatic protection schemese and means for customers to collect data and send to our support. Over time, bugs have reduced and customers just sleep well at night. Very litte work to solve problems in the network, more focus on expansion. So yeah, I can understand where you are coming from.

  4. J Z says:

    Should’ve added the rest of it, Mike! ‘Dumb, dum-dum-dum-dum-dum dumb.

    It’s an easy trap, especially if you own/operate, club or personal. “I’ve flown this many times and know it like the back of my hand, I don’t really need to preflight.” Another equally-dangerous one is “I know that equipment X is inoperative or intermittent, and may be a safety-related item, but I’m willing to fly with it anyway because [insert excuse].”

    [Those skipping the story portion, go to the last two paragraphs.]

    I was fortunate(?) enough to see an accident happen from both of those quotes when I was very early on in my training, and even more fortunate(?) to have seen the entire chain-of-events firsthand. No injuries, minor damage – both due to sheer luck as much as anything else – but the point was made, and it forever shook the habit out of me. Or so I thought.

    Some months back, I flew with a friend of mine to an airport in the middle-of-nowhere, spent quite a bit of time on the ground and refueled. De-chocked, started up, and did a runup. I’m a tactile-check fellow (for light aircraft), and have always taught that if your hand isn’t on something, you didn’t check it. So when I reached down to touch the fuel selector, it felt odd; I looked down, and realized that I had left it off from the refueling process, and the engine had run for five minutes (timer-from-startup – another habit of mine – showed 4:50). I’ll save you the math, but I figure that had I assumed it working, my engine would have quit either on rotation or on climbout at low altitude. Airport is in hilly, forested terrain with minimal clearway, and that happened at night.

    I’m not sure what would have been worse – the odds of surviving without injury; the shock to my bank account; or the embarrassment telling the NTSB that I had crashed because, to simplify the legalese, I was an idiot.

    Getting back to the comic, this one’s a personal favorite. I’ve also definitely seen it somewhere before. Trade-a-Plane, maybe?

    And regarding your Zoom meetings, would love to watch, but scheduling may have other plans. Have you considered posting the videos (in whole or in part) to your Youtube channel, with the agreement of the participants, of course?

  5. VHN says:

    TRIGGER WARNING NEXT TIME! Ouch.. Ok as a pilot that goes to many airshows.. a full pre-flight EACH time is NECESSARY. you never know where you will find a Pop/Beer can…..

  6. J Z says:

    I should probably clarify. The accident I was talking about didn’t happen to me. I had a front-row seat though, since I’d preflighted the aircraft, declined taking it (wheel-brakes were shot, airbrakes were operative but tiny), decided to wait until the other aircraft was available, and thanks to the resulting three-hour delay, watched the whole thing happen. And since somebody is undoubtedly going to ask, yes, I warned the pilot, and no, he didn’t listen.

  7. Fbs says:

    I have only one ass, so I take care of where I put it
    As FI I’m the guy in charge, so whatever preflight my student does, I also do my own. And as a mechanic, I know there is never enough pairs of eyeballs to get everything straight. So preflight is not negociable

  8. Ray L Rivera says:

    Thorough preflight, by the checklist. Every time. We’re a busy flight school and even though I fly a preferred aircraft every time, others fly it too and I want to make sure everything’s OK with it. I’m anal that way.

  9. Grant McHerron says:

    Down here we’re trained to do a daily inspection before every flight, even if you landed, refuelled, had lunch & returned. Assume you’re the first person to fly the aircraft before you take off

    Very handy for spotting issues that have come up during the flight to the current place or things that have changed while away from the aircraft (idiots doing something odd or the dreaded insects infesting pitot tubes, static vents or fuel drains 🙂 ).

    Always assume you’re walking up to a brand new aircraft when pre-flighting. Is an extra 5-15 minutes such a major issue if it finds things like fuel tanks lower than expected, loose tank caps, infestations, etc? Face it, doing a full pre-flight before every flight is a good habit and can find hassles you’d have missed if you’d just kicked the tyres & lit the fires…

  10. mike says:

    I hope I don’t need to put a “Don’t Try this At Home” warning on my stories and our cartoons anytime soon.

    Just to clarify:
    YES! Always do a preflight!
    NO! Don’t do what Chuck does!

    And just in case my story wasn’t clear, we preflight the helicopter every day, the entire thing, our whole crew. This thing gets looked at in between flights as well, called “through flight inspections”.
    Just wanted to make sure you guys know…

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