As we head into some of the coldest months of the year in the Midwest, you may be getting ready to store your aircraft. But before you can officially wrap up your flying season, there are a few key maintenance tasks that you should complete to make sure your aircraft is properly taken care of and ready to fly again come spring.
Here’s a quick guide to winterizing your airplane to help get you started — let’s go!
Change the Oil
One of the most important things to do before closing up shop for the winter is change your oil. The oil currently in your aircraft has likely been there for a few months, and has collected contaminants that could be harmful to your engine if it sits there for an extended period of time. This can lead to corrosion and rust in the engine. Remove the old oil and add in a preservative oil mixture to help protect your engine over the next few months.
It’s also recommended to run the engine, and do a quick turn to help make sure the fresh oil is distributed evenly throughout the engine.
Fill up the Tank
To help mitigate the risk of fuel condensing over the next few months, it’s a good idea to fill up your tank. If you use aviation fuel, there is less risk of condensation, however, if you use regular automotive fuel, there is a higher chance there is ethanol in the fuel, which can absorb water and increase the risk of corrosion. If you want to be extra safe, empty the tank of auto oil (which is only good for six months, anyway), and fill up with Avgas if your plan is sitting for months at a time. Avgas can sit for up to an entire year without being changed.
Cover the Aircraft
If you’re lucky enough to store your aircraft inside a protected hangar, you won’t have to worry about covering the aircraft, unless you’re particular about the paintjob. However, if your plane is out in the elements over the winter months, do your best to cover the plane. Not only will this help protect it from rain, snow and ice, but it will also help minimize the risk of fading paint due to prolonged sun exposure. Many companies manufacture and sell custom airplane covers that fit snuggly over smaller crafts so they are not damaged or blown off in high winds. Also, don’t forget the nussiance of bird droppings that can be corrosive to your paint if not removed for some time.
Check the Grease
Since most aviation grease fares well in lower temperatures, you don’t need to pick up a specialty grease. However, it’s a good idea to make sure everything is properly lubed up for the winter months. Clean up greased areas, and make sure things like hinges are protected from the dry winter air. In addition, greasing up engine components, wheel barings and linkages before you store the aircraft will prevent you from having to do it in the spring — that way you can get out there and fly right away!
Other Winterization Tasks
There are a few other things you should consider doing before storing your airplane, such as:
- Chock the wheels front and back and release the parking brake. This will prevent the brake seizing on, whilst keeping the aircraft static.
- Check the inlets exhaust and vents. Pitot and static vent covers are crucial to ensure that the openings aren’t blocked with dirt, dust particles and/or insects. Blanking engine intakes and exhausts will also minimize the amount of moisture able to get into your engine which causes corrosion.
- Picket your aircraft down. If you have to store your aircraft outside, try to find a semi-sheltered area where it isn’t exposed to high winds. The aircraft should be secured, using the correct tie down points, and the nose should be pointed into the main wind direction for the area. Ensure that tie down points are connected securely to concrete blocks, screws, spikes or specific hard points in the ground.
- Apply control locks. Use either external flying control surface locks or internal control braces to prevent the control surfaces from damaging themselves by crashing from one lock stop to the other whilst unattended.
- Consult your aircraft’s flight manual. It’s generally a good idea to consult your aircraft flight manual to check any of the specific recommendations or tips for winterizing.
Protect Your Plane and Always be Ready to Fly!
By taking the proper precautions now, you’ll make sure aircraft is properly protected from the cold and elements. You’ll also thank yourself that the aircraft is kept in good shape for when you are itching to take to the skies once the weather starts to warm up in the spring.