Engine Pre-Flight Inspection Tip - for the non-mechanic

(Originally published on July 10, 2017

Pre-flight inspections – among the many other flight-critical aircraft components that are part of your routine, you’ve likely checked the airframe, tested the fuel, and reviewed the brakes and tires. Customarily you have also opened the cowl and looked over the engine, searching for anything that might stand out as an ‘area of concern’.

But are you really clear on what to look for under the cowl?

As a pilot, there are no expectations for you to be a mechanic, verse in every aspect of engine function and maintenance. During pre-flight inspection, however, pilots do have the responsibility to look under the cowl and have the where-with-all to identify areas of potential concern. For those that are less mechanical, looking at an engine can seem a bit intimidating.

Fortunately, you don’t need to be a mechanic to catch a small issue. All you need to be is attentive to changes that vary from the normal in order to identify a potential problem before it becomes a larger issue.

Pre-Flight Example

Some things to consider:

  • Color changes on components
  • Cracked hoses
  • Oil drips

In the following example, exhaust soot was discovered on one of the ignition wires during annual inspection. Clearly this is not a place to find evidence of exhaust. Yet this very visible change was not caught during the last pre-flight inspection. A thorough examination with the aid of a flashlight revealed a crack near the top of the exhaust pipe – the cause of the errant soot.

In this case, the issue was caught without incident. Gone unnoticed or left unattended this could have developed into a greater concern.

Take the time to know and understand how things should look. Does anything appear out of the ordinary? Pay attention to consistencies. If something looks different, note the change, and above all ask questions. Bring it to the attention of your maintenance team to determine cause and solution.
If you have questions regarding what to look for while performing a pre-flight on the engine, please contact Sky Manor Air Repair and Avionics for details