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Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Pre-Flight Inspections

We all perform preflight inspections on our airplanes (right?). Check the fuel, check the oil, walk around the airplane, peering into spots when able, moving control surfaces, looking at tires and brakes (when wheel pants aren't in the way). I started using a flashlight when I saw an air carrier crew member walk under the wings, looking up into wheel wells far above his head, using one of those Maglight flashlights. Lighting inside the hangar is usually far from adequate, so the flashlight seemed like a no-brainer. My preflight checklist identifies an inspection of the cabin: Cabin door, flight controls, mag switches, fuel quantity, fuel shut-off valve, seat belts, ELT, loose items for aerobatic flight. That's it. Not near enough for me. The front pilot station has the occupant's legs a foot below an inverted fuel tank that has five fittings/lines going to/from the tank. Five opportunities for leaks. Of course it's dark up there, thus the flashlight. Always a part of my preflight is having a look at each fitting and line for fuel stains. Never found one in the many preflights I've done. That is until a few weeks ago!
This rascal had a blue stain on it. I took a wrench to see if it was loose. Whoa, that crack you see above, turned into a gusher! It was a fairly quick fix to replace the fitting. However, had I not seen the crew member peering up into that wheel well many years ago, I probably would have missed that cracked fuel line, with potentially disastrous results had it decided to let loose while aloft. Take your time on those "routine" preflight inspections, go the extra mile to ensure you're seeing everything critical to safe operation. Consider that flashlight!