3 Things to check on your next preflight

What do mechanics and pilots have in common? Well, at North Aero, one common trait is that they both want warrior N41459 to be kept in good condition. That means we need to do a good Preflight. 

One way we can keep you flying, and also provide job security for our resident mechanics, is by practicing proper preflight procedures and making a note, or "squawk" of any issues you might find.

Don't just kick the tire and light the fire, take a minute to inspect the tire for tread wear and proper inflation. Excessively worn tire tread puts a wheel out of balance and can cause shimmy in the landing gear and even increase the likelihood of tire failure in the case of a hard landing.

The nose wheel tire in the picture below has had some inappropriate contact with the runway. It's important to land on the main wheels first and then set the nose wheel down to avoid these flat spots. Losing so much rubber causes it to go out of balance quickly which you may notice by excessive shimmy during taxi, takeoff, or landing roll out. You may even feel some shaking after lift off as the tire slowly stops rotating. 

Most pilots are told to let the tire go until chords are showing and it will be ok. While that may be an airworthy limitation, it's not the best practice. Vibration can really hurt a lot of components on the nose gear and it's important to avoid it. 

One tip is to roll the airplane back and forth while during the preflight to look at the entire tire. If it looks like there are some flat spots, point it out to our mechanics or your CFI. 

Another good thing to check is for play in control surfaces. Beyond just testing to make sure the control moves freely, make sure it moves smoothly, as resistance or wobble may be an indication of a cable catching on a pulley, or of a bushing or bolt that is wearing over time. Fatigue and stress is as real for airplanes as it is for people, and catching a crack or worn spot on the ground is much preferable over finding out about it unexpectedly in the air!

You should also be listening to the control surface as it is moving. Maybe you'll hear a rivet rattle its way through the control surface, or grinding of the control cables. Listening is just as important as looking, so wait for the jet to pass by and move the control surface again. 

Small aircraft are rigged with cables and pulleys, and control surfaces are held on with nuts and bolts. Take a minute to look over any exposed bolts and ensure each connection point looks secure and that no important hardware is missing. Castle style nuts should have a cotter key to secure them. Metal or Elastic stop nuts are also used, and you should make sure there are threads coming out of the nut. You'd be surprised, but most mechanics aren't, we've even seen people try to use unapproved hardware to secure control surfaces. You can't buy AN (Air Force-Navy standard) Hardware for your plane at Ace Hardware. 

If something looks off, make a note of it and ask your instructor or friendly neighborhood mechanic to double check before you blast off.

And always, we ask that you take note of even seemingly superficial spots, and remind us if something is inoperative, loose, missing, or cracked.

In the image below you can see a small crack formed in the wingtip of the Warrior. There are approved repair methods to stop the crack from going further. These can be easily applied if we can catch the crack when it starts forming.  

We strive to keep the warrior in good condition both for safety and for quality, so if you notice a missing cowling stud, a loose knob on a radio, or a crack on a lightbulb, we encourage you to stop for a moment and bring it to the attention of one of our team members so we can fix it for you. More often than not, repairs and improvements are easier to handle before a flight than after. We want your experience to be enjoyable as well as safe, and appreciate feedback as to where we can do better in that pursuit!


Sophia is a licensed mechanic as well as private and instrument rated pilot, currently turning wrenches and writing blog posts to make ends meet until she logs enough hours in the left seat to start making the big bucks as a corporate pilot. Her hobbies include flying and working on airplanes, and at any hour of any day she is most likely to be found in the North Aero hangar or somewhere else around the Salinas Airport.

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