As the pilot in command you are responsible to ascertain that the aircraft is an airworthy condition. As such you are required to check all papers as weight (mass) and balance, logbooks, licenses and limitations. And part of any flight is a thorough visual inspection of the airplane.
The visual inspection or walk around is done by the pilot as the final airworthiness check. In this section we describe were and what to look for when inspecting your aircraft. Any pilot who has build an aircraft will look much deeper and further than normally is required, as builders/pilots ourselves we will discuss this important part of the preflight and help you looking deeper and further.
Continued from part two.
Visually look over the wing for dents or wrinkled skin (high load damage). Proceed from the root towards the wingtip inspecting the leading edge. Also, verify the quantity in the tank and secure the cap (look again for fuel stains), drain fuel from the quick drains. Walk along the leading edge (make sure to look at the strut too) to check for damage.
Make sure the wingtip is firmly attached to the wing. Turn toward the aileron and move it carefully up and down and look at the right aileron, it must move in the opposite direction. Listen for any strange noises.
The flaps are still in the full down position, this gives us the change to inspect the tracks they move in. Again the hinges must have your attention, move the flap for any unusual movement or play. Do not forget to look at the mail wheel, tire and brakes. Check the tire pressure, as sometimes its not readily visible that the pressure is too low.
Everybody can look at parts but it takes experience and practice to recognize parts that need replacement when doing such a visual check. If not sure about something then get your mechanic to have a look at it, he/she can teach you what to look for. In time you will learn to do this yourself. Below we present some tips when visually inspecting an aircraft, note that the list is not complete.
When inspecting hardware on an airplane note that threaded bolts must have at least one thread coming through the nut, castle nuts must have their safety pin installed, rod end bearings must have a large washer on each side, just in case the bearing fails. Excessive oxidation must be removed and the cause taken care of.
Rotating parts should not be installed with self locking nylon nuts and these nuts may not be used where high temperatures (e.g. under the cowling) are present. Electrical wiring must be protected from chafing against other parts, the same can be said for push-pull rods.
Gear leg check: To see if there is movement in the main gear, set your foot on the tire and move the wheel forward and backward. No motion is allowed between the fuselage and the gear leg.
If your aircraft has a shimmy damper: check the fluid level and move the nose gear to see if the shimmy damper operates properly. Do pay attention for any puddles of fluid underneath the cowling, it could be leaking brake fluid, engine oil, coolant....
These are some of the things to look at when doing the walk around, if in doubt: get an A&P to take a look at the part in question. It is much better to be safe than sorry.
With this step the pre-flight is completed and you are now ready to board the aircraft and commence your flight, have fun!