How Should I Inspect My Light Aircraft (To Fly Safely)?

Regardless of its size and model, all light aircraft need to be inspected thoroughly before each flight. The pilot or co-pilot is usually tasked to perform the inspection and look for any damages that might have occurred. It is crucial to ensure that the aircraft is still in airworthy condition before retaking flight to keep the passengers safe throughout the trip.

The pre-flight inspection consists of a cabin and an exterior inspection. If you plan to become a pilot, learning about these inspection tasks will significantly help you ensure that your flight goes as smoothly and safely as possible.

If you want to know how to inspect a light aircraft properly, here’s a step-by-step breakdown for both types of pre-flight inspection:

Cabin Inspection

The first thing you need to look for when checking the cabin is if the aircraft contains the documents required on every flight. The paperwork should have the following:

  • airworthiness certificate,
  • registration certificate,
  • operating handbook,
  • and the weight and balance data of the aircraft.

Ensure that the certifications have not lapsed and are still valid as of the date of the flight.

Once the documents are verified, you need to check the control system. Start by removing the control wheel lock. Afterward, make sure that the ignition switch is turned off and that there no keys in the ignition.

Next, switch on the master switch. You’ll need to check the fuel quantity. Remember that the gauges aren’t always accurate, as they only show maximum accuracy when displaying an empty reading. When you’re done, lower the flaps and turn the master switch back off. Turn the fuel valve on and inspect the fuel quality and quantity before leaving.

Exterior Inspection

The exterior inspection is much more detailed and lengthier than the cabin inspection. Start by inspecting the empennage, which is the tail assembly at the rear of the aircraft. The empennage is vital because it provides stability during flight, allowing the aircraft to maintain its balance.

Next, remove the tail tie-down to prepare the aircraft for flight.

Inspect the elevator and rudder for free movement and security. Don’t forget to check the balance weights as well.

Afterward, take a look at the aircraft’s antennae.

The next inspections will be done on each side. Go to the right side of the aircraft first and check the right flap. There should only be minimum movement possible on the flap. Then, examine the right aileron and its hinges to see if there is freedom of movement. The aileron is a hinged flight control surface that forms part of the trailing edge of each of the aircraft’s wings.

Finally, scan the leading edge of the wing and remove the wing tie-down.

Look into the right main wheel. See if the tire is in good condition and properly inflated. There shouldn’t be any signs of brake fluid leaks, too.

Go to the right fuel tank drain valve and drain a small amount of fuel. Check for traces of water and sediment, then verify if it has proper fuel grade. Remove the fuel cap and look in the tank to check the quantity of fuel inside. Afterward, secure the fuel cap and check the oil level.

Examine the nose wheel and fairing. Make sure the nose wheel strut and tire are adequately inflated. Inspect the shimmy damper, nuts, and bolts for security. Search the propeller, spinner, and alternator belt for any visible damages.

Lastly, check the landing light to see if it’s still operational. Don’t forget to do the same inspections you did with the aircraft’s right side to its left side.

A Final Word on Inspecting a Light Aircraft

Inspecting a light aircraft is not an easy task. As the pilot, it is your responsibility to make sure that your plane can safely carry your passengers to their destination. Don’t hesitate to make multiple inspections until you are 100% certain that your aircraft is ready for flight. It’s much better to find out about any damages or hazardous elements on your aircraft during inspection than mid-flight.

If you detect anything on your aircraft during the inspection that might need immediate repairs or professional opinion, don’t hesitate to contact Knisley Welding Incorporated.

With years of experience in servicing and repairing high-quality aircraft, Knisley Welding Incorporated is sure to provide you the best assistance with anything aircraft-related.