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Faults found on preflight


nightsta1ker
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We all know that these machines cannot be "perfectly" maintained and kept in an immaculate condition all the time. In fact, there are some real pigs out there, particularly in the flight training world. Ever found that nick in the tail rotor, or the corroded hardware, or a small crack in a drive belt? I'm sure you all have at some point, it happens. And most of the time we let it slide if we deem it not to be serious. On several occasions I have had instructors and mechanics shrug a fault off with a "naw, that's fine!" or a "it's been like that forever, if it gets any worse we'll fix it". Where do you draw the line? At what point does a fault become unacceptable? Now that I am an instructor, I find myself doing a lot of that. I know the helicopter, I know what's wrong with it. I have my book of "pocket red x's" as we called them in the Army. And I shrug my student's pre flight findings off all the time with a "It'll hold together" (maybe with a mental "at least until the next inspection" added on to it). Is this a hazardous attitude to develop? Or is this just experience kicking in? I am not wont to ground an aircraft because of a 1/64 in. Chip on the corner of a tail rotor blade (unless there is an accompanying crack). Tail rotor blades are expensive, and replacing it will likely lead to another chip just as soon as I do an off field landing. But what if I'm missing something? What if there's a crack under the paint? At what point does writing off faults become foolish and unsafe? In a perfect world, we would fix everything we find wrong. In reality, we have to walk a line. How do we pass good judgement and experience on to students without grounding the aircraft every other flight?

 

Thoughts?

 

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Have your students spend some time with the mechanic. They will understand the systems better and learn some of the limits for discrepancies. I know of at least one school that made it a requirement for their program. It is good to expand your knowledge and see the operation from the mechanics point of view and build a good working relationship with your mechanic.

 

I would be cautious of shrugging off findings with your student. They will teach the way they were taught and eventually something that should be addressed may be ignored. Instead, explain why it is within limits, or what the limit is.

 

Just my opinion from a mechanics point of view.

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What "gary-mike" said.

 

And, know what's acceptable on the aircraft, when and why. If you're not certain what the exact status is, find out. That means the maintenance log, too. Your certificate, if not your life, depends on it.

 

It worries me to hear pilots say things like "it'll last until I'm done with it". Next, it's rainy, cold and windy, and "the aircraft's probably okay". Then "it flew in, it'll fly out". One day, you will be wrong and you won't have any excuse. You'll get no sympathy from your more professional colleagues, either. I won't rat anybody out for sloppy preflights, but I won't listen to excuses.

Edited by Wally
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In my opinion,

 

Teach your students to go with their gut. If it’s in question, then find the answer before you fly. In addition to talking to the mechanic, the best place to find the answer is in the Maintenance Manual. Teach your students how to use the manual and find the answer.

 

Additionally, the rational "It'll hold together" is a negative transfer of learning. Don’t do that…. Simply ask, “What do you think?” If the discrepancy is in question, teach the student the steps of how to deal with it and have it corrected. If it’s not an issue, then the student can feel confident in his/her actions and not second guess. By all means, don’t just “shrug it off”…..

 

Remember, the purpose of your flight is flight instruction. That is, it’s not to save an infant from death or rescue firefighters from a burn-over. Simply put, you have absolutely no reason to fly if a reasonable doubt exists…..

 

As a CFI, make conservative decisions and survive flight instruction because someday, you may need to save that infant or those firefighters…..

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I don't have any trouble calling over a mechanic any time I find something in question during preflight. The one thing that stuck out in the comment of the OP was the nick in the fan belt. Even if the mechanic inspected it, and found it to be just within limits, I might help the nick become a tear with a little swiss army knife action. Then it has to be replaced.

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Even if the mechanic inspected it, and found it to be just within limits, I might help the nick become a tear with a little swiss army knife action. Then it has to be replaced.

 

It would probably be better for you to just quit, as opposed to being fired for cause and possibly charged with a felony. Or if you are renting, just don't fly if you don't like the condition of the aircraft.

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Thanks for the responses guys. Very good feedback. One thing I want to clarify here, I AM a mechanic, and I DO explain to my students what is acceptible or not and why. I also would NOT go fly if I thought the aircraft was unairworthy. I was really referring to the negligible little dings, dents, and scratches that accumulate on aircraft. I am currently flying a very old S300C that is perfectly airworthy but is definitely showing it's age. A few of my students are used to flying nice shiny new R22s with fresh paint on everything. I find I have to do a lot more explaining of what is acceptable and what is not and it just got me wondering what some of the other instructors had to deal with. I was very picky as a student and would grill my instructor about every scratch. Now that I have 10 years of mechanic experience under my belt, I am much more comfortable with some of the smaller faults.

 

I dont want anyone thinking I am being unsafe. Safety is my primary concern as an instructor.

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It would probably be better for you to just quit, as opposed to being fired for cause and possibly charged with a felony. Or if you are renting, just don't fly if you don't like the condition of the aircraft.

If the new belt I got put on saves your ass, you can thank me later.

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If the new belt I got put on saves your ass, you can thank me later.

 

I understand what you are saying in principle, I'm not trying to be a smart a$$. I also happen to be an aircraft mechanic, and am capable of doing my own preflight, thank you. So just bear with me a second... You look out the window of the FBO and see someone cutting away at belt with their pocket knife. How do you think that's going to play out? If you are uncomfortable with what the mechanic tells you, ask to see what the acceptance criteria is. He should be able to show it to you. If you still don't like it, and they don't want to change it don't fly it. If it's within the criteria and you choose to intentionally cause further damage, I'm not going to thank you, whatever your intention may be.

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Here's a question. I'm not the owner/operator, just one of the pilots flying that day. If I see something I'm unsure about (and the mechanic isn't around to check it) can I actually ground the aircraft for the day? That is, I know I can cancel my flight, but do I have the authority to say that YOU can't fly today either?

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I need to check the FAR. I believe once it is reported the aircraft should not be flown until a mechanic signs it off, but I am pretty sure it has to have been reported to a mechanic. Once it's reported the aircraft is grounded. If it's not, other decisions can be made by other pilots.

Edited by nightsta1ker
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I understand what you are saying in principle, I'm not trying to be a smart a$$. I also happen to be an aircraft mechanic, and am capable of doing my own preflight, thank you. So just bear with me a second... You look out the window of the FBO and see someone cutting away at belt with their pocket knife. How do you think that's going to play out? If you are uncomfortable with what the mechanic tells you, ask to see what the acceptance criteria is. He should be able to show it to you. If you still don't like it, and they don't want to change it don't fly it. If it's within the criteria and you choose to intentionally cause further damage, I'm not going to thank you, whatever your intention may be.

Now that I know you will take the nicked fan belt that I warned you about, I will sleep well. I am going to figure out a way to not take any pressure to take something I'm uncomfortable with, even if a mech says it's good. I'll make sure it's all documented as well. Not just take the mech's word for it, I'll have his signature. If someone asks why I didn't stop you, I will say I did. I am far enough along in my career that I know what I'm comfortable with, and what I'm not. I ran into this once with frost on the wings. I got pressure to take the flight by another pilot, I told him he was welcome to take it, he didn't. You sound like you might. I can see you now allying with management questioning a pilot's call, saying "it's within criteria", instead of saying, let's just replace the belt.

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There is criteria for a reason. There is a line between being safe and being productive. Pilots walk that line every day. If you had to pay out of pocket for those belts to be changed every time you found a small nick or a slight fray on the edges, you would stop being so picky pretty quick I bet. My decision making process usually works more like this: once I have determined the fault is not going to be detrimental to the flight, it goes on my list of things to A) keep an eye on B)replace or fix the next 25 or 50 hour. If it becomes a safety of flight issue before the next scheduled maintenance, then I guess we need to deal with it, but if the discrepancy stays within published limits (if there are any) then why take an airworhy aircraft off the line and pay for extra maintenance because someone is being finicky?

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Here's a question. I'm not the owner/operator, just one of the pilots flying that day. If I see something I'm unsure about (and the mechanic isn't around to check it) can I actually ground the aircraft for the day? That is, I know I can cancel my flight, but do I have the authority to say that YOU can't fly today either?

 

Hopefully, iChris will chime in with additional specific regulation sections.

 

In the meantime, if you find a discrepancy which renders the machine unairworthy, then you must notify the owner/operator and they must ground the aircraft until the problem is addressed. It falls on the PIC to determine airworthiness. It’s up to the owner/operator to maintain airworthiness.

 

If the PIC finds a discrepancy which does not render the machine unairworthy, it can be deferred. Knowing what can be deferred is based on the RFM, MM Spec’s, FAR 91.205 and 135 ops specs for 135 ops..

 

However, deferring an item does not mean you can just forget it and go. And, if you have a “discrepancy board” hanging in the hangar which notifies maintenance of an aircraft issue, technically, the machine is unairworthy until the problem is addressed in some form or fashion….. Read, no-can-fly……..

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Just to clarify:

 

I guess my real question is, If there are say 5 of us flying it that day, the 4 other pilots think its ok, but I'm not sure if its "in condition for safe flight", so I cancel my flight, how does that affect the other flights for the day? Does each PIC have to determine airworthiness for himself, or can one decide for all (again this is something that is not an obvious unairworthy problem, and the mechanic is gone for the day)?

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Just to clarify:

 

I guess my real question is, If there are say 5 of us flying it that day, the 4 other pilots think its ok, but I'm not sure if its "in condition for safe flight", so I cancel my flight, how does that affect the other flights for the day? Does each PIC have to determine airworthiness for himself, or can one decide for all (again this is something that is not an obvious unairworthy problem, and the mechanic is gone for the day)?

 

Each PIC is responsible for determining the airworthiness of the machine. However, once one pilot “squawks” the problem, it must be addressed regardless. If another PIC determines the “squawk” is not valid, then it’s on him…..

 

Just for fun; say you’re flying along when you notice the digital clock on the instrument panel begins to fade to the point of extinguishing (fails). You arrive back at base and the next scheduled pilot is there waiting and you inform him the clock has failed. He says “no biggie” and prefights the machine. Without talking to another soul, the pilot gets in and launches… Is this a violation?

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One thing I would take out of this. If you are a student, or a newbie pilot, and you see something you don't feel comfortable with, but the mechanic and all the other pilots don't seem to think it's a big deal, it might be worth re-evaluating your opinion, especially if documentation can be presented that proves the fault is within a tolerance or acceptable limit.

 

However... As Spike said earlier: Listen to your gut. There is more to our minds than just our 5 senses and if you feel that spider sense start to tingle, it might be a good idea not to go.

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Just for fun; say you’re flying along when you notice the digital clock on the instrument panel begins to fade to the point of extinguishing (fails). You arrive back at base and the next scheduled pilot is there waiting and you inform him the clock has failed. He says “no biggie” and prefights the machine. Without talking to another soul, the pilot gets in and launches… Is this a violation?

 

Slap an INOP sticker on it, and pull the clock circuit breaker, and your good to go. However, what I'm talking about (and what I took from the OP) was that we're talking about something a little more concerning, like a nick in a blade, or a crack on a belt?

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Slap an INOP sticker on it, and pull the clock circuit breaker, and your good to go. However, what I'm talking about (and what I took from the OP) was that we're talking about something a little more concerning, like a nick in a blade, or a crack on a belt?

 

Those were just examples, and I am really not talking about anything seriously concerning. Just little dings, scratches and maybe some minor fraying that starts to happen when belts are getting old. The kind of things that when an experienced pilot or mechanic notices them, they make a note that something needs to be done about that when it next goes into scheduled maintenance. I am not talking about anything show stopping.

 

As an example that supports your statement about placarding, I once spent two hours on the phone trying to reach a mechanic to verify whether or not I needed a warning light that was not functioning properly. Once I reached him, he told me it was not required equipment and as long as it was disabled and placarded, I was good to go, it just had to be fixed the next time the helicopter underwent maintenance. Had I not been able to reach the mechanic, I would have canceled the flight.

 

There have been times when I found things that were definitely wrong. Like a tail rotor pitch link with radial play. When I showed my instructor, he just walked away with a "well I guess nobody's flying that one today!". Some of this stuff is a no brainer, some of it requires some consideration, and some of it is really superficial. I am just concerned that maybe my application of knowledge would not necessarily benefit a student. Just because I know something is good does not mean that the student shouldn't question it. I don't want my students to start blowing faults off because I have taught them that little things like that are "no big deal". Some of that stuff is no big deal. Some of it can be a big deal though. It just depends on what and where.

 

I like the comments posted about finding the answer before we fly. I have copies of all the maintenance manuals. Even if it is something I consider superficial, it's worth taking a look at the manual anyway and can only benefit the student's training and confidence. A scared student is definitely not going to learn as quickly.

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Going back to your original post, as a CFI how about taking some time to go over section 2 in the maintenance manual with your student? I wouldn't spend a lot of time in the weeds with it, but all of the basic inspection criteria are there and could help give the student an idea about what is acceptable. If they have an interest in the mechanics of things AC43.13-1B is available free in pdf form from the FAA as are all the other AC's that pertain to maintenance and inspection, but those are overkill for the average pilot. I realize many pilots aren't really interested in the mechanics level of system knowledge, but knowing where to look if they don't have a mechanic around is helpful.

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Short answer...for 91 vfr flight...no

 

In my opinion, yes it would be a violation -unless………

 

Slap an INOP sticker on it, and pull the clock circuit breaker, and your good to go.

 

The saying goes; “if it’s installed, it must be working”.

 

If it fails, it’s time to research. We research because opinions will vary and the only opinion that really matters is the Fed’s opinion, and he will no doubt have one, sometimes in writing……

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Those were just examples, and I am really not talking about anything seriously concerning. Just little dings, scratches and maybe some minor fraying that starts to happen when belts are getting old. The kind of things that when an experienced pilot or mechanic notices them, they make a note that something needs to be done about that when it next goes into scheduled maintenance. I am not talking about anything show stopping.

 

As an example that supports your statement about placarding, I once spent two hours on the phone trying to reach a mechanic to verify whether or not I needed a warning light that was not functioning properly. Once I reached him, he told me it was not required equipment and as long as it was disabled and placarded, I was good to go, it just had to be fixed the next time the helicopter underwent maintenance. Had I not been able to reach the mechanic, I would have canceled the flight.

 

There have been times when I found things that were definitely wrong. Like a tail rotor pitch link with radial play. When I showed my instructor, he just walked away with a "well I guess nobody's flying that one today!". Some of this stuff is a no brainer, some of it requires some consideration, and some of it is really superficial. I am just concerned that maybe my application of knowledge would not necessarily benefit a student. Just because I know something is good does not mean that the student shouldn't question it. I don't want my students to start blowing faults off because I have taught them that little things like that are "no big deal". Some of that stuff is no big deal. Some of it can be a big deal though. It just depends on what and where.

 

I like the comments posted about finding the answer before we fly. I have copies of all the maintenance manuals. Even if it is something I consider superficial, it's worth taking a look at the manual anyway and can only benefit the student's training and confidence. A scared student is definitely not going to learn as quickly.

 

In my opinion,

 

A scratch in the paint, paint chip, scuff or normal wear is one thing. A dent, crack, ding, deformation or level of wear or corrosion is another. The latter will have limits. In most cases, the former will not.

 

As a CFI, you have a reason to fly (to make money for the company by providing a service to the customer). A student has no reason to fly, other than to learn. The student is the customer and paying umpteen hundreds of dollars for said service. If the customer has a doubt about the quality of the machine, he/she should voice that concern, whatever the issue may be. Without voicing a concern, nothing will ever happen….. Teach your students to speak up if they have a concern. In this business, ignorance is not bliss, its death. Over time and through experience, your students will adopt their own comfort level with the quality of the machine they fly. It’s you that will set the foundation….

 

At our little slice of heaven, our DOM has a method of dealing with such matters. If one person squawks a concern, he keeps an eye on it. If 2 of us squawk an issue, he researches and takes appropriate action. If 3 of us squawk a problem, no matter the condition (that is, even if the part/vibration/whatever in question is within acceptable limits), the component/condition is removed, replaced with new, rectified, or repaired as required…. Simply put, he refuses to accept the liability of more than 2 people voicing a concern over what a manufacturer stipulates in a manual…… Great practice albeit, not cheap…..

Edited by Spike
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During run up one day, the cylinder head temp gauge died out of no where right before the mag drop check.

 

We ended up switching aircraft. Never did find out if it was a short, the gauge, or the sensor that failed.

 

I've never seen the maintenance manual, and truth be told, I have no idea what EXACTLY is required other than that of the POH and 91.205. The FAR states Temp gauges for WATER COOLED engines are required, but nothing about air cooled. I would never DRIVE without an operating temp gauge, let alone fly, but is that gauge required by anything?

 

I'm rambling. Is there a resource online that I can utilize in regard to a 22? I'll do my google'ing in the morning for sure, but I'm sure other people might be wondering as well.

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