10 Tips On How To Take Good Care Of Your Airplane
March 26, 2017
Kay Vereeken

Frequently airplane owners are asking me: "Hey, what can I do to avoid costly repairs to my Airplane". Usually it involves small things such as door hinges, worn out window locks, windshield scratches etc. These repairs however may quickly run into several thousands of Dollars in spare parts and labour. But guess what, there are a lot of things you can do to avoid these. It actually comes down to slightly altering the way how you, your passengers, your students behave in and around the airplane. Here are 10 tips that will absolutely help to keep your airplane in a great condition.

Tip #1: Always Keep Holding your Tow Bar!

Too many times I've see Tow Bars left attached to the nosewheel unattended. This is an accident waiting to happen and the slightliest distraction during your Preflight Check (such as a phonecall) may cause you to start the engine with the Tow Bar still present. Good checklist discipline may help you to catch this, but note that also checklist items tend to be skipped sometimes. You may have been in a rush to start the engine after you've towed the airplane away at the Fuel Station to make some room for a series of fellow pilots behind you.

My advice: Make a habit out of keeping your hand on the Tow Bar when attaching it and don't release it until you're done towing. I always call-out: "Tow Bar Removed" when I disconnect my Tow Bar in order to explicitly remind myself that I have removed the Tow-Bar. Things you 've stated aloud tend to stick better and they require a more conscious action. Also watch your airplane towing limitations: On a Skyhawk 172SP, do not exceed the nose gear turning angle of 30° either side of center, or damage to the nose landing gear may result.

Tip #2: Use two fingers to lock your baggage compartment door!

You may know that the baggage compartment locks on most Skyhawks are spring loaded. When you close the door, a tiny spring is loaded and a mechanical lock keeps the door latched. When you push the small knob to open up the baggage compartment door, the spring will rapidly push the latch in the open position. After intensive (ab)use, the spring gets worn out and needs to be replaced. (In fact, the whole mechanism needs to be replaced and repainted which can easily cost about 500 USD.)

My advice: Simply put your two fingers on the latch in order to avoid it from suddenly smashing open. This will tremendously extend the lifetime on your locking mechanism.

Tip #3: Don't overtighten the Oil Dipstick!

Always make sure the oil dipstick is secured "hand-tight" after checking the oil. The reason is very simple: any hot material will expand  in size when heating up, so does your oil dipstick/filler tube (which is made out of plastic by the way). The oil dipstick/filler tube is secured to your crankcase with a safety wire. When your engine cools down, the dipstick will be very hard to screw out as the oil dipstick/filler tube has decreased in diameter. When a large force is exercised by the pilot on a regular basis to unscrew the dipstick, the safety wire will get worn out quickly and the oil dipstick/filler tube will have to be replaced more often.

Tip #4: Set your Parking Brake the right way!

Parking brakes on Cessna's are not the greatest feature. However they will keep working if you use them correctly. The parking brake is operated by a handle under the left side of the instrument panel. To apply the parking brake, set the brakes with the rudder pedals, pull the handle aft, and rotate it 90° down.

Too many times I see people turning the handle 90° down, followed by pulling the handle aft (which is the exact opposite as how it should be done). This action will damage your parking brake.

When releasing the parking brake, first turn the handle 90° up, followed by slowly guiding the handle back forward. Don't let it go straight away while turning the handle up!

Tip #5: Open the door handle completely!

A very common mistake happens when a pilot wants to open the door from the inside and does not pull the handle to the full aft position. Note that the door handles on the C172SP models have three postions (not two): OPEN, CLOSE and LOCK. In other words, the handle is frequently insufficienltly pulled back, causing the handle to stay in the CLOSE position. The door will unlatch but the locking pin is still sticking out. When you want to close the door again, the locking pin will damage the outside of the door and the door locking mechanism.

My advice: always open the door  by pulling the handle fully aft (OPEN position), ensure you've heared the "clicking sound", confirming that the handle is in the full OPEN position and not in the CLOSE position. Always carefully close the door, NEVER SLAM the doors. Last but not least, if something doesn't feel right, never force the door handle into any position.

Tip #6: Don't lean on the doors when entering or leaving!

When entering or leaving the airplane always use the strut which forms the forward part of the door entrance. Never lean on the door itself as this bends the hinge points. When this occurs, you may notice that the door is hard to close and lock. A replacement of the hinge points or even the whole door assembly may be required.

Tip #7: No items on the dashboard!

Never leave stuff on the dashboard. Headsets, pencils, checklists etc may damage the windshield.

Tip #8: No pencils in your pockets!

Whenever you have pencils in your pockets, they tend to leave hard-to-remove marks on  leather seats, seatbelts, sidepanels and more importantly the pants of your instructor.

Tip #9: Carefully open and close windows!

When you want to open the window, always hold the latch and guide the window open. A spring will hold it in the open position. When you just unlatch it, the window will jump open which wears out the spring. Replacement of the window spring is not the end of the world, but annyoing and may cause some dowtime.

Tip #10: Clean windows with water and bare hands!

Acrylic windshields full of bugs are not only very annoying, they're also an important flight hazard. Make sure your windows are clean, it will help you to see and avoid other traffic.

Cleaning is simple:

  • Remove abrasive dirt (sand) without touching the surface, use plenty of clean water;
  • Let it soak for 5 minutes;
  • Use your bare hands to carefully rub the bugs off;
  • Flush the windows a last time with clean water;
  • Carefully dry the window with a clean soft cloth;

Never use paper towels on an acrylic window.

I hope you enjoyed these 10 tips, let me know in the comment section if you have some more recomendations.

Remember to STAY SAFE and JOIN our Personal Training. In Style

Kay Vereeken
Kay started his Aviation Career at the age of 16 and did his first commercial flight at the age of 21. He worked for 3 different Airlines in Europe, flying the F50 and BAE146. Ten years and 8,000 flying hours later, he decided to dedicate his life to his ultimate passion: Professional Pilot Training. Together with his wife, he founded, EuroPilot Center (Antwerp) and SoCal Pilot Center (Southern California).