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The Walkaround is a standard inspection procedure that all good pilots follow before taking off in their airplanes - from a small ultralight to a jetliner. It consists of a regular walk around the airplane before takeoff, during which you check for any flaws or faults in your aircraft.

The usual procedure is to start inside the cockpit, and walk counter-clockwise around the aircraft, checking all windows, latches, protrusions, control surfaces, and generally checking the condition of the plane itself.

A sample check-list for a Cessna 172 walkaround:
  • In Cockpit
  • At Rear of Plane
  • At Starboard Wing
    • Disconnect Wing Tie-Down
    • Check main wheel tire for proper inflation
  • At front of plane
    • Check oil level. Do not operate with less than six quarts. Fill for extended flight.
    • Before first flight of day and after each refueling, pull out strainer drain knob for about four seconds to clear fuel strainer of possible water and sediment. Check strainer drain closed. If water is observed, there is a possibility that the fuel tank sumps contain water. Thus, the fuel tank sump drain plugs and fuel line drain plug should be removed to check for the presence of water.
    • Check propeller and spinner for nicks and security.
    • Check nose wheel strut and tire for proper inflation.
    • Disconnect tie-down rope.
    • Inspect airspeed static source hole on side of fuselage for stoppage (left side only)
  • At Leading Edge of Port Wing
  • At Port Wing
    • Disconnect Wing Tie-Down
    • Check main wheel tire for proper inflation
Each plane, of course, differs but you can see the more important things to touch on. In my flight training, I found a few other tips to be helpful.

First, fuel indicators (in most older Cessna aircraft anyway) are wildly inaccurate at the best of times. It is best to actually "dip the tanks" with a calibrated measuring stick ("broom handles" work well) to see exactly how much fuel you have. Since fuel is the number one most important part of the aircraft, it is always nice to double check for your own safety.

Secondly, it is a lot easier to check the operation and construction of the flaps of the aircraft if you lower them before your walkaround. In the first steps above I note that the Master Switch should be turned on - before you turn it off again just flip the flap selector down to full. Watch the flaps descend and ensure they move fluidly.

DO NOT SKIMP OUT ON THE WALKAROUND. It is a daily chore for me, and started with about 30 minutes of work. As I got more familiar with the aircraft, I slowly whittled it down to about 8 minutes or less. At my flying school you can rent out the airplanes - and in a few instances, other pilots damaged the airplane (either during flight or in a landing somehow) and didn't report the damage in fear of reprisal. Things such as gaping holes on the underside of the fuselage. Most Cessna 172s sit pretty low to the ground, and you would have had to get well onto your hands and knees to see the tear on the belly of the plane. Thankfully the damage was noticed - but imagine if you had taken off in that airplane... Not fun!

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