Getting Your Plane Out of Winter Storage

Winter Plane Storage


Now that the winter season is starting to fade in most parts of the country, pilots everywhere are looking forward to the flying season ahead. If your aircraft has spent the last few months collecting dust, there are few things that need to be checked before you take off for that $100 hamburger.

First of all, make sure that the battery is in good condition and fully charged. The first start after a period of inactivity will put a heavy demand upon the battery, plus it is also beneficial to have enough battery power to help with some additional engine cranking if needed. The best way to ensure a good battery charge is to remove the battery from the aircraft and use a slow “trickle” charger rather than a rapid charger. This presents less risk of damage and more chance of recovering a discharged battery. Rapid charging of a battery can sometimes cause damage by delaminating the cell plates.

Next check the fuel for water. Leaky fuel caps and condensation can cause water to form in the bottom of the tanks or become suspended in the fuel. Water contamination is easiest to find if the aircraft has sat still without any movement, as agitation will encourage the mixing of water and fuel at the boundary where the two meet. It is usually best to check the fuel before moving the aircraft, and then again after moving to allow any trapped water to flow down to the sump points. Be sure to allow at least 30 minutes after moving the aircraft to allow the water time to settle.

Next thing to consider is the condition of the brakes. It is possible they could seize up if the aircraft has been left unused for a period of time, so care should be taken to make sure the brake calipers are free to “float” around the disc with no hydraulic fluid leaks on the ground. Look for signs of a sticky tarlike substance at the pistons behind the brake pads, as this could be an indication of seeping brake piston o-rings where hydraulic fluid has mixed with dirt and debris.

During your walk-around, remove all the control locks, pitot and static blanks, and any engine blanks that you may have applied to exhausts or inlets. Once removed, perform a thorough check for any “stowaways” that you might have; birds, animals and insects all find dormant aircraft a good place to make their home, so have a good look in the engine bay, in accessible areas of the airframe and pitot and static vents. Some insects use these vents as homes and use the pipe-runs as small breeding areas. What you found as a blockage at the vent opening may only be an indication that there is a further obstruction of insect larvae further down the line that could cause instrument failure.

We next need to turn our attention to the engine. If the engine has been stored for several months, it should have been inhibited with a storage oil and desiccant plugs putin place of one set of spark plugs to keep moisture out of the combustion chamber. With these desiccant plugs removed, the engine can be turned over without engine compression offering any resistance. The engine will turn over quite rapidly and allow the oil pump to rotate quickly enough to supply some oil to the oil passages. This will limit the time that the engine will run without full lubrication after engine start. Now replace the spark plugs and start the engine for a brief ground run to warm the oil. This will make the oil more fluid and allow it to drain properly so that it can be changed and replaced with fresh oil.

Once the engine is prepared for the season, you should consider the other areas of the aircraft that might need lubrication. Light aircraft joints, such as flap and control surface operating linkages, and other general purpose applications are normally lubricated by AeroShell Grease 6. Wheel bearings are commonly packed with AeroShell Grease 5. Often these grease application points go for long periods without adequate grease reapplication. If the old grease appears dark and hard in nature, it should be replaced.

Taking time to prepare your aircraft after storage is an important step that will help you to maximize safety and minimize costly repairs later. As an owner/operator, you can perform the preventative maintenance outlined in part 43 appendix A, but it is your responsibility to determine if you are capable of performing the work safely and in accordance with regulations. When in doubt, consult a licensed A&P mechanic.

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Stretching: The Fountain of Youth


Complements of Harvey W. Watt

Weights and cardio are important, but don’t forget flexibility. We are made to move. Exercise, breathing, flexibility and movement keep us feeling young and alive. However, as we age, most of us move less each day. In a society with drive–through everything, it’s easy to sit on the couch and age into immobility. But, you can choose to move, stretch and feel fantastic.

Why are flexibility and stretching important?

Youthful means flexible. Age is rigid and stiff. Even if you work out by lifting weights and doing cardio, if you don’t tend to your flexibility, your muscles and joints will become less supple. By stretching regularly, you’ll renew your body and slow down the effects of the aging process.

How does stretching enhance wellness?

A gentle yet effective stretching program benefits you in numerous ways. It:

  • Increases energy
  • Increases range of motion
  • Relieves the effects of stress
  • Relieves joint and muscle pain
  • Improves circulation
  • Improves posture
  • Enhances balance

What happens when you stretch?

Muscles and connective tissues shorten while you sleep. When you stretch, muscle fibers and connective tissues elongate and align, allowing the stretched muscles to become longer. Over time, regular stretching trains muscles to contract less after a stretch, so they become both longer and stronger. As you age, this helps prevent joint discomfort and keeps you agile and mobile.

When and how should you stretch?

A five–to–10–minute morning stretching program is ideal preparation for your body to feel good throughout the day. If your day is particularly stressful and makes your muscles tight and fatigued, do your routine at night, just before bedtime. Either way, warm up your body by exercising for at least 10 minutes before you stretch.

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10 Gift Ideas for Pilots


Pilots are a unique bunch and often appreciate a unique approach when it comes to gift giving. Now granted, as different as they are, pilots do wear clothes, eat food and go to movies; and it goes without saying, gift cards are always welcome. But for those who want to go a bit above and beyond, here are some suggestions from a few festive fellow flyers out there:

Backup Tablet.
The Electronic Flight Bag (EFB) is great, but a backup in the event of a failure is a must! A smaller – maybe less expensive – tablet can certainly fit this bill, i.e., an iPad Mini to back up the standard iPad. Even with a backup tablet, American Flyers recommends having backup paper charts as well; their batteries never die, nor do their screens break.

Spare Headset.
A backup for the pilot in the event their primary fails, or a primary headset for passengers. Choose well because it may be snuggly clinging to your head on your next flight with them!

Handheld Radio.
This makes an unplanned radio or electrical failure a much easier process. Devices range in price and functionality from the most basic at $150 to having both communication and navigation functions at $400; choose whichever fits best into your gifting budget.

Mountable Camera.
Recorded flights can provide both education and entertainment. Rest assured that reviewing these pilot “home movies” is significantly more exciting than slide shows across Egypt or a 1987 video tour of a paper production plant in Nekoosa.

Warm–weather Gear.
Jackets with built–in rechargeable heaters or heated gloves will ensure that the winter tundra of the frozen north doesn’t rush the outside–the–aircraft inspection that every good pilot performs. Consider garnishing your gift with a large thermos and a few packets of hot chocolate.

Gift Certificate for Flying.

Consider a weekend course to add a seaplane rating, a little time in a tail dragger or behind the stick of a war bird, or an hour in a military jet. Besides the addition to the logbook, the joy of the experience is a gift that will last a lifetime!

Shielding your eyes from the bright sun is a necessity in aviation and a bonus for those of us wishing to be able to see into our 50’s. Polarized sunglasses are great, but many modern avionics already have polarized screens, so a little knowledge of the cockpit of your pilot–giftee is necessary here.

Flight Jacket.
Nylon, leather, sheepskin… the classic WWII bomber jackets are always an eye turner, and they provide the perfect canvas for those desiring to spice them up with various pieces of aviation flair. Plus, they stylishly announce to the world that the wearer is a pilot.

Pilot Travel Books.
State–by–state guides to the best airport fly–in restaurants, airports in close proximity to fun destinations and attractions, or noteworthy airports to brag about in your flying memoirs (see KLXV, Leadville County in Colorado) will help your pilot get the most out of that airplane. Most of these guides will fit comfortably into a flight bag or aircraft glove compartment and will get the creative and adventurous juices flowing.

During this time of celebration, giving of thanks, and all–around fellowship, companionship is the gift that will pre–heat the pilot heart the most. Toys, devices and “things” are nice, but every pilot out there desires most to fly, and to share their passion for flight with others. A “Co–pilot Coupon,” redeemable for a reserved seat next to them during their next slipping of surly bonds is quite simply the best gift you can give to your pilot friend.

Happy shopping, enjoy the holiday season, and always remember that it is far better to give a PIREP than to receive a holding clearance.

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