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How good is your preflight inspection?

Do you look up through the hole at the bottom of the cowling (where the hot air exits) whereby you might spot stuff like

  • exhaust about to fall off
  • exhaust burning through a fuel or oil hose whose support(s) have come off
  • oil or fuel leak
  • vandalism

Some planes don’t have that big hole down there but they tend to have grilles on the sides, etc.

Shoreham EGKA, United Kingdom

I remove the cowling on both sides before every non-trivial flight. That can be done in 30 seconds each and is one of the best things about the C182. It gives me a complete view of everything and more than once I have spotted something that needs attention. I would feel much uneasier on one of those many designs where all you have is a peephole which in fact gives you almost nothing. The most frequent issues are something getting loose/moved or something leaking somewhere.

Sometimes I get strange looks or comments in remote places and big airport aprons with the cowlings removed but I tell them it’s part of the pre flight check.

I currently fly an airplane where you can hardly see the engine through the oil plug cover, the air cooling intakes (provided there is no winterization plate installed) and maybe a little bit underneath. I loved the PA38, Be33 which had a hinged cowling that you could open for the pre-flight. And IIRC the PA28R also had a top cowl that was easy to take off by removing a few fasteners, slide the cowling forward and then it lift off.

On these new modern flying machines there is a lot you do not have access to, starting with the engine. The tyres and brakes are hidden underneath wheel fairings.


I have a hinged cowling on both sides. I can see pretty much everything.

Andreas IOM

Mine requires loosening 14 M6 screws, then removing the upper cowling, even to check the oil level. For anything beyond that (oil change, …) I remove the lower half too. Hinged cowling would come in handy, yes.

Last Edited by at 11 Aug 09:31
EBZH Kiewit, Belgium

I remove the top at least once a month. The bottom cowling is a bit more cumbersome to drop.

Both my cowlings have complete hinged access on both sides, so no issue in taking a close look before every flight. That’s what I do.

How do other owners inspect the airframe before flight? I admit I don’t often do the complete walk-around, as taught in early training. The excuse is that the plane is mostly in a controlled environment between flights, and I fuss with the planes a lot. I do look at critical things before every flight, like tail wheel security.

Last Edited by Silvaire at 11 Aug 13:41

My attitude to pre-flights was formed after reading an article in Flying, maybe 25 years ago, by Richard L Collins (I think, possible by Mac or Peter Garrison). They reviewed fatal accidents associated with deficient pre-flight inspections and came to the conclusion that if you:

  • check that nothing is tied to the aircraft (including pitot covers etc.) and the controls are free of locks
  • check that the fuel supply is sufficient and not contaminated

then you’ve probably eliminated most of the major risk that you can eliminate.

So you don’t check the oil level, bookworm?

I’m not so much concerned about having an accident, I’m am more concerned about having an expensive and/or inconvenient breakdown. I will be able to fly to my destination with a hole in the exhaust but the aftermaths it won’t be nice (new cowling).

Last Edited by achimha at 11 Aug 15:34

It’s a good discussion isn’t it? I wonder what the stats are for:-

1) incidents as a result of leaving the oil cap off, or incorrectly refitting it
2) incidents that were avoided as a result of checking the oil before flight

38 Posts
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