How To Perform A Visual Pre-Flight Check On An Airplane (IV)

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Pablo Edronkin

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Your next target should be the bolts that lock the main landing gear and the wing struts in place; needless to say, there should be no looseness, all nuts should be in place, and they should be clean.

Then check the right wing struts, the command cable that goes to the right aileron and the pulley that is visible at the "armpit" where the main strut meets the wing. Of course, check the fabric covering the wing's intrados (its lower face or side); it should not have any puncture or cut.

Upper horizontal stab strut.
Upper horizontal stab strut.

Now to go the wing tip and check that it is in good condition; wingtips are among the components that suffer punishment the most in taildraggers such as the PA-11, either by bumping into other planes while being stored in a hangar, or due to ground looping. At this point, grab the starboard wingtip with both your hands and shake the wing up and down a little.

Horizontal stab hinge and strut contact point.
Horizontal stab hinge and strut contact point.

The whole airplane should move solidly, as one piece; if you feel any looseness then something important is amiss in the wing and of course, you should call a mechanic. Now move backwards, to the posterior section of the wing and check the state of the fabric on top of it (the extrados). Check the state of the aileron, the metallic horn to which the control cable should be well attached and the hinges that allow for movement up and down.

Inner horizontal stab hinge and surface intrsection with vertical rudder.
Inner horizontal stab hinge and surface intrsection with vertical rudder.

These hinges should have a couple of little locks or locking rings that should be in place; if one is missing then the whole aileron may be blown away while in flight, with obvious consequences. See around you and check that no obstacles are present, and move the aileron up and down with your hands, noticing if there is any problem. If yours is a PA-11 with flaps, repeat the checking process for this additional surface.

Rudder hinge and contact point of starboard upper tensor (strut).
Rudder hinge and contact point of starboard upper tensor (strut).

Now you will find yourself at the root of the starboard wing, behind the cockpit and it is time to check the fuselage facets; this plane has a rectangular-section fuselage and so, you will have to see whether the top, bottom and starboard side facets are ok.

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