When the winter’s over and a new season begins, it's time to think about ways…
There may be a few more months left of winter, but it’s never too early to start planning for spring. If you’re like many other pilots, you’ve probably been counting down the days until the winter weather clears and you can take your plane out of storage and get back in the skies. But, if you haven’t flown your plane all winter—or if you haven’t flown it much—there are a few things you need to do before taking off. Here’s a helpful maintenance checklist to get you ready for flying in the spring:
See what needs to be done
It’s probably been a few months since you’ve been near your aircraft, so start the spring by looking through the maintenance log to see where you left off with maintaining your plane. Were there any repairs you decided to hold off on until the spring? When was the last time your plane was inspected? Make a to-do list based on what you find in the log.
Change the oil
You may be thinking to yourself, “Didn’t I just change the oil before putting my plane away for the winter?” Yes, but that doesn’t mean you can skip out on another oil change before spring. Oil that has been sitting around for a few months may now be acidic, which means it could cause corrosion if left unchanged. If rust begins to mix with the oil, it can cause a huge amount of damage to the engine. So although it may seem like an unnecessary task, it’s incredibly important to take care of this before hitting the runway with your plane.
Look for condensation in the fuel tank
Aviation experts recommend filling your fuel tank before putting your plane in storage for the winter, but unfortunately many aircraft owners fail to take this advice. If your fuel tank was not completely full when you stored it at the beginning of the winter, it’s possible that condensation has built up over the last few months. This may not seem like a big deal, but any water left in the tank can eventually cause corrosion. To avoid having to make expensive repairs in the next few weeks or months, make sure there is no water in your fuel tank now.
Get rid of expired products
It’s about to be spring, which means there’s no better time to do a little spring cleaning. Check all of the supplies you use to clean your plane and make sure none of them are expired. You should never use chemicals that are expired according to the manufacturer, so toss any old items and restock with fresh products so you can give your plane a scrub down.
Clean the aircraft
Unless you have the luxury of a heated hangar, it’s difficult to wash your aircraft during the freezing winter months, so you will need to thoroughly wash your plane once spring rolls around. Before you start to wash it, check for any signs of damage that may have occurred after you stored the plane. For example, if you kept your plane outside, it could have been damaged by strong winds, hailstorms, or even other planes. If it was in a hangar, there is less of a chance of damage, but it’s still important to look just in case.
Begin by rinsing off the surface to remove any dirt or debris that may have accumulated since the last cleaning. Aircraft owners can either use water or do a dry wash, which involves using only chemical cleaners and a microfiber towel.
Be careful when washing the glass, as debris can cause scratches if you try to remove it by wiping it off with a cloth. It’s recommended you use a lot of water and your bare hands when rinsing off any glass on your aircraft. Once the surface has been washed off, polish the entire exterior of your plane to protect it for the spring season and beyond. Polishing can remove oxidation and water spots while also protecting your plane from corrosion and scratches. If you want to keep your aircraft in the best condition possible, follow up the polish with sealant. This finishing product helps extend the protection provided by the polish. Plus, it can also protect your plane against UV rays, which is something you need to worry about again when winter is over.
Check the battery
Winter weather can be brutal on your aircraft’s battery, so it’s absolutely imperative you check this part of your plane prior to taking flight in the spring. Aviation experts recommend that you thoroughly inspect the battery after every 50 hours of use, but even if it hasn’t been that long, you should still check it after the winter is over. Be sure to remove it from the aircraft to take a closer look instead of giving it a glance over while it’s still in the plane.
Read the tire pressure
Cold temperatures can cause the pressure in your tires to drop, which makes it nearly impossible to safely take off or land. If you haven’t touched your plane all winter, chances are you have low tire pressure that needs to be addressed before your next flight. Of course, if your plane has been stored in a heated hangar, tires won’t be as affected by the cold temperatures, so this may not be an issue. While you’re looking at the tires, you should also check for tread wear that could signal it’s time for a replacement.
Look at these vital parts of the plane
Inspect the landing gear, wing flaps, and propeller to determine if there are any loose parts that may have been damaged during the winter. If you spot anything unusual, don’t hesitate to contact an aircraft mechanic for help.
After you have checked all of these items off of your maintenance checklist, you’re ready for take off. It will soon be time to kiss the winter goodbye and enjoy the next few seasons of sunny weather and clear skies!