Preflight After Maintenance
By Tom Hoffmann, FAA Safety Briefing Magazine
Not unlike many fixed-wing pilots, rotorcraft pilots are sometimes lulled into a false sense of security after getting their aircraft back from the maintenance shop. They might assume everything is in perfect or better-than-ever working order. While any mechanic worth his or her salt will always endeavor to do the best job possible, mistakes do happen. Sometimes big ones. The good thing is that with an added layer of knowledge, scrutiny, and attention during preflight, you’ll be much better prepared for catching any red flags and increase your chances of a safe flight.
But how do you know where or what to focus on during a preflight inspection after maintenance? Let’s have a look at some best practices that are bound to help take your post-maintenance preflight prowess to the next level.
- First, review the maintenance records, including any previous squawks, to see what was worked on and where you should focus your inspection. Then if possible, have the mechanic who performed the work walk around the aircraft with you. They might be able to point out things that you might miss.
- Use a preflight kit that includes all items you’ll need to do a thorough check during your inspection. This should include a flashlight, inspection mirror, checklist, and any other tools you need to access the aircraft (work stands, ladders, etc.).
- Perform the preflight with the cowlings and inspection panels open or removed to view any inaccessible areas.
- Check for any foreign objects like debris or any left-behind tools or hardware.
- Speaking of hardware, check that all bolts and screw heads with holes are properly fastened (e.g., safety-wired).
- Challenge yourself to find something wrong or out of place. Assume something is wrong and be on a mission to find it.
- Use your checklist! But also recognize how vague some of the tasks can be. The word “check” can indicate several things so learn what it means specifically for the item you’re inspecting.
- Be sure to inspect some specific items like filter bowl security, proper filter by-pass indicator extension, intact slippage marks, the condition of elastomeric or greaseable bearings on main/tail rotors, and hangar bearings and flex plate bevel washers.
You can learn more about the importance of preflight by checking out the Rotorcraft Collective video series here bit.ly/RotorPlaylist. There are two videos on preflight along with other topics like ground operations in icing conditions and preflighting your passengers.
This information is also part of a broader effort to focus on key safety issues for rotorcraft pilots, called Helicopter Safety Enhancements (HSEs), as determined by the U.S. Helicopter Safety Team (USHST). H-SE 28, Helicopter Final Walk-Around/Security of External Cargo, was specifically developed to provide best practices for helicopter preflight inspection, final walk-around, and postflight inspection (see Learn More below for more on H-SE 28). Read about all the HSEs here: ushst.org/h-se-details.
🚁 #FlySafe Fact Sheet — Advanced Preflight After Maintenance
🚁 12 Rules to Live by for Your Pre-Flight Helicopter Inspection, USHST (PDF download)
🚁 H-SE 28, Helicopter Final Walk-Around/Security of External Cargo (PDF download)
Tom Hoffmann is the managing editor of FAA Safety Briefing. He is a commercial pilot and holds an A&P certificate.