Airplane Checkout

What follows is a list of things every pilot can do to make sure that their day at the field will be fun and successful. It is a checklist that everyone should go through, and most of it can be done at home, before going to the field. You may even want to have a friend run this check list on your airplane simply to put a different set of eyes on your equipment. 

Be aware that airplanes with lots of flight time can have systems wear out, become loose, or just fail. Usually your airplane tells you that something is amiss; you just have to be smart enough to listen. When it starts handling a little differently, makes a different sound, or does something it never has previously done, it's time to run through this checklist.

Check List

1. Batteries: Batteries are probably the cause of 50% of the R/C aircraft crashes throughout time. Make sure a new radio system has the batteries charged in strict accordance with the manufacturer's instructions BEFORE you turn it on for the first time. Most all transmitters have a volt meter of some sort built in - either in the LCD screen, on a separate meter or a set of lights somewhere on the front of the transmitter...check for sufficient voltage before every flight.  If any readings are different than what you expect, your system is talking to you; pay attention to it. There are many types and sizes of batteries used with current RC aircraft. Often, the battery type differ between what is used in the transmitter and installed in the aircraft. R/C batteries can be any types from NiCads, to Metal Hydrides, Lithium Ion, Lithium Polymer and Lithium Iron. All of these mentioned battery types require different kinds of charging. It is absolutely mandatory that you use the correct charger set to the correct parameters when charging. Failure to do so will potentially destroy your equipment and can easily cause fires and/or explosions.

2. Are servos properly secured and the grommets, eyelets and screws in the proper relationship? Is there a screw holding every output arm on it's servo? (amazing how often these screws fall out, or were never put back in after working on your airplane).

3. Interior control rods, cables,  and antenna(s) must be secured properly, routed properly, and move freely. Drag on control systems sucks battery power at a very high rate. Antenna should be away from servos and other radio parts. Antenna should have protection in the form of heat shrink tubing or fuel tubing where ever it rubs against anything.

4. Condition of propeller is good and propeller nut is tight. Keep in mind that wooden propellers compress when the propeller nut is tightened. That is why you see so many propellers popping off on Saturday morning when they were perfectly tight last weekend. Check spinners. No part of the spinner cone should touch any part of the propeller.

5. Check to see that the engine, engine mount. and muffler are secure. Black "goo" on the airplane after a flight is a sure sign that something has come loose. 

6. All control surface linkages (clevis) must have keepers, be secure and move freely. Metal clevis' must have jamb nuts on the threaded rod to which they are screwed.  If the clevis' you are using does not come with a positive locking system, slide fuel tube over the clevis to act as a safety keeper. 

7. Conduct pull test on hinges and a load test on control surfaces. You will be amazed how many surfaces will pop off the hinges with even a gentle tug. Better to find this with the airplane still on the ground. Control systems should be reasonably rigid when you try to move the control surface.

8. Check the aircraft structure. Look into the fuse as best you can checking for cracks and broken glue joints. Check to see that the tail feathers are still secure to the fuselage.  Gently twist the wing to make sure nothing is broken.

9. Check the aircraft's CG (center of gravity) with no fuel in the fuel tank. If the plane has retracts, make sure to check CG with the gear retracted. 

10. Wheels and landing gear must be secure and roll free. A little main gear toe in on tail draggers makes steering on take off much easier. Make sure the plane rolls straight. Nose wheel steering on tricycle gear airplanes should be minimal - 1/8" in either direction is more than enough. A 180 degree turn in about three wingspans is plenty of control.

11. Wing hold down system is secure.

12. Name, address, phone number, and your AMA and FAA numbers are displayed on or in the aircraft.

13. Range check radio per the manufacturer's instructions, with the engine running,  prior to the first flight of each session.

rev 7/24/2015