In the May issue of Flight Training, we asked digital subscribers a very particular question: “If you preflight an airplane the night before a planned flight, do you:
a. Conduct a thorough preflight the next morning as well. You never know what could have happened over night.
b. Conduct a streamlined version of the preflight, focusing on only certain things.
c. Kick the tires and light the fires; I’m good to go.”
The question was pretty directed because it was inspired by a particular set of circumstances put to Rod Machado in the May “Since You Asked” column. Specifically, K.L. wanted to know what Rod thought of this situation:
“I met someone who was preflighting his airplane the night before he was to take a trip. He was the sole owner, and the airplane was hangared. He indicated he would do a quick walkaround in the morning, but he felt taking his time the night before would result in a more thorough preflight and nothing significant would happen overnight. So the question must be asked: Do preflights have an expiration date (time)? How long is a preflight good for?”
First, let’s look at our responses to the digital poll. A whopping 87 percent of respondents said they’d conduct a thorough preflight the next morning. Just 13 percent said they’d conduct a streamlined version of the preflight, and no one–not one person–confessed to the notion of kicking the tires and lighting the fires.
When you consider that our readership is aimed at primary student pilots, many of whom rent aircraft that sits outside and unattended, it stands to reason that they would prefer to do a preflight both the night before and the morning of the planned flight. This is your last chance to check everything before you go hurtling into the air, so why waste the opportunity?
Then again, 13 percent said they’d be comfortable with conducting a streamlined version of the preflight on the morning of the flight. This could represent our readers who own aircraft and are reasonably confident that nothing will have happened to their aircraft over the eight, 10, or 12 hours preceding the flight.
And here’s what Rod told K.L.: Preflights do have an unofficial expiration time that’s based more on common sense than a timepiece. “If the airplane is secured in a hangar, then it’s entirely reasonable to do a thorough and detailed preflight the night before departure and a less-detailed inspection the morning of the flight. This is based on the assumption that the hangar is completely secure.
“On the other hand, if the airplane is out in the open, it is unreasonable to assume that something or someone can’t adversely affeected the airplane’s airworthiness overnight. Therefore, the next morning’s flight should be preflighted by an equally thorough preflight.”
In the year I had access to a hangar for my 1964 Piper Cherokee 140, I never preflighted the airplane the night before a flight with the intention of saving time and doing a quickie the next morning. It never even occurred to me to do something like that. I know myself too well. Any tasks that take place after 6 p.m. aren’t going to be ones that involve operating an aircraft or checking its airworthiness. I prefer to leave enough time in the morning to do a thorough, unhurried preflight, when my brain is sharpest.–Jill W. Tallman
“Since You Asked” polls appear monthly in the digital edition of Flight Training. If you’d like to switch your magazine from paper to digital at no additional charge, go here or call Member Services 800-USA-AOPA weekdays from 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Eastern.