Walking past some aeroplanes parked at any FBO can often remind a passer-by of a popular airmanship admonition: a flight isn’t over until you’re walking to your car to go home. Unchecked wheels, a rope poorly tied, a window left open, a missing pitot cover or control lock, a tow bar still latched to a nose wheel: these should clue anyone into wondering about the other things the pilot may have forgotten to do before hastily beating a path from the airport. While we’ve covered some ground, in a previous column, regarding picketing an aeroplane after a flight, there are some other post-flight actions to undertake before your aerial escapade should be considered done. Here’s a few things to think about before recording your hours in your logbook.
Mechanical faults may arise during a flight that can best be identified and attended to upon a flight’s completion. It’s a perfect time to check your airplane’s condition to ensure your next flight isn’t grounded for reasons resulting from your previous use of the aircraft. While taxiing to park after landing, unusual noises or vibrations may be discernable that weren’t present before. Pay attention for such abnormalities. It’s also the perfect time to identify a gripping brake or a nose-wheel that’s not tracking straight. An uneven main landing gear could be a symptom of low pressure in one tire, or of improper hydraulic pressure in a gear strut. Excessive tire wear, too, can rear itself after landing: scuffing and tearing of treads may result from unusually poor runway conditions. Check for it after your flight so it doesn’t stop you from starting your next one.
Perform a magneto check after landing. If, when at idle, the engine continues firing when you briefly switch the ignition to “Off”, then a grounding connection has come loose meaning the engine could fire if the prop is turned. The danger of such a scenario is obvious; the common sense of doing the check before shutting down is just as explicit.
When performing your shut down, note any discrepancies that may exist from the norm when pulling the mixture knob to mixture-idle cutoff. An unusual rise in rpm, or no rise at all, may indicate that something is amiss with the carburettor or, possibly, with its jetting. This, too, is a good opportunity to verify the reading on your Hobbs Metre. It may be time to schedule an inspection or, as a minimum, change the oil in your aircraft.
After exiting the aircraft and securely pinning the aircraft to the ground, a post-flight walk-around could uncover wear and tear issues that could scrub a future flight. A wrinkled fuselage skin could indicate internal structural damage resulting from exposure to severe turbulence or excessive airspeeds. Stones and debris on runways can do harm to aircraft metal or composite structures, and can be especially damaging to propellers. Mud and ice can clog vents, static and pitot sources. Check it all out.
Stains on the aircraft are signs of possible fuel, oil or hydraulic leakages. Excessive fuel consumption in flight may be a clue to a problem with the seating of fuel caps, fuel drains or fuel lines. Look for possible causes to all this evidence now. Should you park the airplane full of fuel? Doing so minimizes condensation in the tanks, and wasteful time spent draining them later. Is your windshield smeared with bugs? Cleaning it straightaway will expedite your next departure. Screws can work loose from vibrations or hard landings. Taking the time to check for popped fasteners will save time when you next come to the airport. Is your upcoming flight at night? It might be timely to check landing, and anti-collision, lights so as to have them fixed, if found inoperable, in time for a subsequent use of the aircraft. Glance at your antenna’s too: are they all still attached?
Attending to certain matters after a flight means that your subsequent one need not be held up for reasons that could have easily been prevented. Ten minutes now could save hours in last-minute delays later.