Aircraft owners know how important it is to perform inspections on their planes prior to taking off. These pre-flight inspections help pilots identify potentially dangerous issues and correct them prior to taking flight. But unfortunately, many pilots do not realize the importance of performing a post-flight inspection of the aircraft. Those that do know how important it is to care for the plane post-flight may be too tired from the flight to follow these best practices. To preserve the beauty of your airplane and ensure that it is safe to fly, follow these tips after a flight:
Double check the ignition switch
Every pilot should double check the ignition switch before leaving a plane to ensure it is switched off and the keys are removed. This may seem obvious, but think of how many people accidentally lock their keys inside their cars when they are in a hurry. The same can be said for pilots and their aircrafts, so don’t skip over this important step after a flight.
Wipe down the aircraft
It’s recommended that you quickly wipe down the aircraft after you land before putting the plane in storage. You don’t have to thoroughly clean the surface of your aircraft every time you land, but you should take a few minutes to wipe certain areas down with a non-abrasive cloth. Pay extra attention to the front of the engine cowl and the edges of the wings, since these are the two areas that are likely to have dead bugs. If you wipe the surface down immediately after a flight, it will be easier to remove the debris so you don’t have to work as hard the next time you clean the aircraft.
Spending a few moments wiping down the aircraft after a flight will also allow you to spot any cracks or issues with the plane that could have occurred mid-flight. Spotting these problems now means you will have time to get them fixed before you plan on taking your next flight. This is much better than having to delay your flight because you didn’t spot the problems until the next pre-flight inspection.
Keep in mind that the goal of this step in the post-flight inspection process is not to make the plane sparkle and shine, but rather to remove anything that could cause problems down the road. Therefore, you don’t need to spend a lot of time making the plane look its best.
Clean the windshield
A dirty or scratched windshield can be a serious safety hazard, which is why it’s a good idea to clean the windshield after each flight that you take. Cleaning the windshield after a flight is beneficial for the same reason that cleaning the surface of the airplane is: it’s easier to remove dirt and grime sooner rather than later. Make sure that you are using cleaners that are designed to be used on an aircraft’s windshield. Using the wrong cleaner may affect your visibility, which could put you in danger during a flight. For example, Windex should not be used on aircraft windows since it contains chemicals that can damage acrylic.
Check the tire pressure
Every pilot should check the tire pressure prior to taking off, but they should also get in the habit of checking it again once they land. Don’t make the mistake of assuming that a quick visual inspection is enough—it can be difficult to spot a slight drop in tire pressure. Instead, use a tire pressure gauge so you have an accurate reading. If there is an issue, work on getting it fixed right away so you don’t have to delay your next flight.
Secure the aircraft
Are you leaving your aircraft outside or in a hangar? If the aircraft is staying outside, make sure that it is properly tied down before you leave. Don’t be afraid to ask someone for help if you feel that you are unable to securely tie it down on your own. You should also briefly look at the airplanes that are parked around yours to ensure they all look like they are securely tied down as well. If one is not, then alert someone at the airport so the aircraft doesn’t become loose and damage other planes in the area.
It’s also a good idea to invest in wing covers if you’re leaving your aircraft outdoors during the winter. These fit right over the wings and will prevent frost from accumulating on your aircraft while your plane is not being used. Putting these covers on will reduce the amount of time that you have to spend prepping your aircraft before the next flight since you won’t have to deal with frost.
Commit to the post-flight inspection
If you’re going to spend time performing this brief post-flight inspection, then don’t cut corners. If something on your aircraft looks off, it needs to be addressed right away, so don’t put it off until later because you’re in a hurry or feeling fatigued from the flight. The best pilots are those that are curious, meaning they take an interest in caring for their plane and aren’t just going through the motions of crossing these items off their list.
It’s best to create your own post-flight checklist using the recommendations above and keep it with you every time that you take flight so you can remember what needs to be done once you arrive. It may take a little extra time to check off all the items on this list after a long flight, but it’s well worth it. Spending time on this checklist after each flight will help you take better care of your plane and save time and money on repairs in the future.