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4 Answers

Where can I find more detailed ino about preflight inspections?

Asked by: 2075 views Flight Instructor, General Aviation, Student Pilot

Hello all,

I'm curious if there any resources out there that dive into the subject of preflight a little deeper. Its been emphasized in the past to not merely look at an item, but know what you are looking for.  I find myself asking questions about what I'm checking, most of which my CFI doesn't know the answer to. Without racking my brains too much about small things, I was hoping to find a resource that explains standard items (for say a Cessna/Piper) a with a little more description of what to be looking for.

For example:


- "Oil: 8 quarts max - 6 quarts min" ...is pretty easy to understand and check.


- "Surfaces: Check" ... what am I looking for? How big can a dent be? How many rivets can be loose/gone? How many screws can be missing? Hmm there's some black marks that look like oil, still good? How much chrome should be showing on the strut?

I know its probably way over the top, but most CFI's I've run into recently are of the mindset of kick the tires and lite the fires and go flying. I have yet to run into one that does a thorough preflight and knows what they are looking for unfortunately.




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4 Answers

  1. Sam Dawson on Feb 14, 2014

    Much will depend on the model of airplane you are flying and installed equipment, though there are things that are general to all airplanes.
    For example on the latter, “Surface check” look for smoking rivets (google for pictures), wrinkles and cracks that have not been drill stopped, new “hanger rash”, look underneath the tail for tail strike damage.
    Look up the AD’s on your aircraft at faa.gov. There may be things in the ADs you should look for. For example, flying a Cessna 150/152 it must either have a modified rudder stop or a placard in the cockpit prohibiting spins.
    Speaking of placards, know them for the model. As an example of this almost every FAR 23 airplane I have flown has a requirement that there be a placard by the fuel filler stating the type of fuel to use and the total usable fuel. I’ve seen many airplanes where this is no longer legible so the airplane is not airworthy (the “O” in AROW does not just stand for “operation manual”).
    User groups are another good source of what to look for. As an example, CPA (Cessna Pilot Association), has a recommendation that when sumping fuel in Cessna 100/200 series airplanes you sump the tanks first, then the nose. The fuel is gravity fed, so if you sump the nose prior to the tanks you may draw water into the fuel lines.
    Hope this helps.

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  2. Wes Beard on Feb 14, 2014

    Sam has some great advice. Especially about the placards and I’ve known examiners who have failed students because on their preflight they didn’t catch all the placards that were missing. Harsh… yes but it was more of a failure on the flight school not maintaining their fleet properly then the student.

    Regarding screws; from a purely technical standpoint if the aircraft is not in the condition it was when leaving the factory the aircraft is not airworthy. I know they can be modified per the equipment list and supplement type certificates. If a screw is missing, the aircraft no longer conforms to the airworthiness certificate. It would be the same if the tail hook was found missing or another piece of equipment on the outside of the airplane.

    Some larger airplanes, especially airline jets, have a FAA approved document called the configuration deviation list (CDL) which lists equipment that can be gone (removed) from the airplane and still be legal for flight. We are talking about missing fuel doors and other items on the outside of the airplane. The CDL will give both a weight and performance penalty that will compensate for the missing items.

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  3. Jeffrey A. Baylor on Feb 19, 2014

    You may also inquire with the maintenance folks that maintain your aircraft model. Look at the maintenance manuals for your particular make & model. Those manuals will also identify placards required that you may want to familiarize yourself with. The Type Certificate Data Sheet (TCDS) is also a document I believe every pilot should be familiar with on the aircraft they fly. Note: There isn’t one on experimental homebuilt aircraft. All of these documents stem from the CFR’s or Code of Federal Regulations for the aircraft you fly. Parts 23, 25, 27, 29… Normal to Transport category airplanes & Rotorcraft. Read the above and learn much.

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  4. Gary S. on Mar 04, 2015

    Rick, Why ask questions about your airplane when a certain problem doesn’t even exist? The maintenance questions you’re asking will not be found in a pilot’s course. Study the POH/AFM and you will find maintenance talk for pilot’s.

    If decide you’re not satisfied with a certain instructor go to the chief pilot and ask for a change, AND the reason why. If that doesn’t work, find another school. There are plenty of them out there.

    Working toward a private license is the basis for every other rating you’ll ever get. I think it’s the most important one of the lot and you shouldn’t have to be shrugged off by an inexperienced instructor. Good luck.

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