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How to Prepare For a Fly-In

A fly-in is an informal gathering of pilots and their aircrafts, and now that the weather is warming up, you may start to receive more invitations to these events. Before you go, there are a few things you should do to prepare for the event. Follow these steps to ensure you are prepared for a fly-in event:

Wash the exterior

Your fellow pilots certainly won’t be impressed with a plane that’s covered in dirt and debris, so the first step to preparing for a fly-in is washing the exterior of your aircraft. You have two options when it comes to washing your plane: a wet wash or a dry wash. The wet wash method involves the use of water and a gentle soap, and is preferred by most pilots because it is less labor intensive. It’s best to use demineralized water, otherwise the mineral content in the water can leave marks on the surface of your plane. Don’t apply the water to your aircraft with a  pressure washer, and be sure to avoid spraying water near the fuselage compartments. If water accidentally leaks into this area, you could have serious corrosion problems.
If you choose the dry method, you will need to buy a cleaning product that is designed for this type of wash. Once you have it, simply apply it to your plane and let it dry. Then, wipe the surface of your plane with a soft, non-abrasive cloth to remove the dirt.

Clean the windows

After the exterior surface of your plane is clean, turn your focus to the windows of your aircraft. If you notice a build up of bug debris on your windows, you will need to clean them with a cleaner that is designed specifically for aircraft’s windows. Ammonia-based cleaners can damage your windows, so it’s important to check the label of the product you are using before you apply it to your aircraft.

Polish your plane

If you want your plane to really shine at the fly-in, it’s important to polish it before you arrive. An aviation-approved polish will remove corrosion, cloudiness, water spots, and oxidation from the surface of your aircraft. You can apply polish either by hand or using an electric buffer. If you apply it by hand, you may be able to polish hard-to-reach spots, but it’s much more time-consuming and labor intensive to polish an entire plane by hand. Because of these reasons, it’s recommended that you use an electric buffer when polishing your plane.

Create a schedule

Some fly-ins are arranged by other pilots and are fairly informal. These fly-ins usually organized so pilots have an opportunity to catch up with another in a new destination. But, there are large-scale fly-in events planned by well-known organizations such as the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA). These events tend to have lots of recreational and educational opportunities for pilots. So far this year, they have events scheduled for small airports in Tampa, Florida, Groton, Connecticut, Norman, Oklahoma, and Camarillo, California. If you plan on attending one of these events, be sure to check the schedule ahead of time so you can figure out what you will be doing on the day of the event. At the AOPA events, there are workshops and seminars that you can sign up for ahead of the event, so it’s best to choose which you would like to attend and pay the fees online to reserve your seat. Stay organized by figuring out what you will do once you arrive at the fly-in so you know what time you need to get there and when you should plan on leaving.

Find out where you will park your plane

It’s important to get in touch with the organizers of the event ahead of time to determine where you will park your plane. It will almost always be outside, so be sure to ask the organizers whether they will be providing supplies to tie down your plane. If not, this is something you should remember to bring with you so you can protect your plane at the event. You should also research the weather conditions near the event so you can identify anything else you may need to bring to protect your aircraft. For example, if it’s sunny with a high UV index in the area you are headed to, bring a cover for your plane to protect it from damaging UV rays. If you don’t want to cover the entire plane, consider buying UV shields for the windows so the inside of your plane doesn’t overheat.

Pack an extra bag

Most fly-in events last for a few hours on a weekend, so you should be able to make it to and from the event within the same day. However, you should pack as if you are staying there overnight just in case something comes up that prevents you from heading home. For example, if bad weather unexpectedly hits the area or if you run into a maintenance issue with your plane, you may have to wait until the next day to head home. Pack an overnight bag that contains an extra change of clothes and all of the toiletries you need to comfortably live for a night away from home.

Spread the word

If you stumble upon a fly-in event that looks enjoyable, spread the word to other pilots in your community. Most larger fly-in events do not place restrictions around who can come, so as long as the event is open to any pilot, it’s the more, the merrier!
Follow these tips so you are completely prepared for the fly-in event. If you don’t take the time to plan ahead, you may run into last minute problems that prevent you from enjoying your time with your fellow pilots and aircraft aficionados!

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