Pre-flight inspection, startup and runup in A2A’s Cessna 182. Watch the video and read the description and guide.
Read before you comment!
There are a few additional checks in my preflight and runup. I also skipped one or two points from the checklist. For example, I did not use nav lights during this flight. This may come as a shock to those of you, who use FS Passengers or a similar software. Please read the explanation before you comment.
Introduction & contents
When I started flying A2A’s general aviation planes I got really interested in how such planes are maintained and operated. I have read a lot. I have also chatted with several real world pilots asking them what do they do before the flight – how they perform the pre-flight. And you know what? There is no single correct method of doing thinks; no method that would be universally adopted. I even encountered some stories about pilots who do not perform the pre-flight – believing that the mechanic checked the plane and that everything has to be fine.
Fortunately (for them) – most of the pilots perform the pre-flight. Some pilots are meticulous in how they check the plane they intend to fly. Some check only the most important parts. At least twice I encountered “I do not remember doing this even once” response when I discussed the A2A’s checklist for the Cessna 172. Some of the tests I performed (alternator check) are mentioned rarely – as a test you would do once on several flights. Low RPM magneto checks are also not that popular.
As to me and my pre-flights in the simulator – I approach them as I would in the real world. You may notice some unnecessary caution on my part – but this is how I check my equipment (even things that are much less deadly). On the other hand – I hate unnecessary tasks – that is why you will see that I skipped some checks. Like the lights check – that I considered unnecessary during the day. I usually check my lights every few flights – especially before night flying.
To end this introduction… This pre-flight story is based on the A2A’s Cessna 182. A very nice repaint was created by AviationNorway – A2A’s forum user. You can download LN-TRE from this website. The video was recorded in Notodden Airport in Norway. I reviewed its excellent scenery by ORBX recently.
Payload and Fuel Manager
I begin all my flights in Cessna 182 (or 172, or in Piper Comanche) with fuel and payload setup. For this A2A provided a dedicated panel, so I do not have to use the default FSX payload and fuel windows. The payload manager allows me to choose of for available passengers / pilots. They will be visible in all external views.
Cargo space in C182 is divided into 3 sections representing places in the fuselage where you can put your baggage. As the load is moved from one section to the other – you may notice a change in the center of gravity.
After the baggage, crew and passengers were loaded I also fueled my plane. You can click the plus and minus buttons on each tank or just scroll anywhere over a tank image. Scrolling is much faster. The same applies to all weights (pilot, pax, and baggage).
Oil is also added in the Payload and Fuel manager. I have noticed that many virtual pilots, who post their videos on youtube,fill the oil tank to the full. Don’t! Always leave a little space in the tank, unless your oil consumption makes it important to have this additional quart or two (and in such a case – you need to check the engine because you have some deeper problems). Lets concentrate on the reason for this empty space in your oil tank.
What happens when you fill the tank to the full? When you fly some air gets by the piston rings to the crankcase. It is unavoidable. Similarly – some oil will always move the other way – from the crankcase to pistons. But what is interesting now it’s the first problem – air getting into the crankcase. To let it out (and to avoid pressure buildup) the crankcase has small vents, through which the air will escape. If you fill the oil tank to the full – your oil (part of it) will escape through the same vents.
So just keep this small space above your oil. This is just like with your car (if you have one) – you never fill the oil tank, instead you try to get your oil level in the correct range. As there is no indication of what the correct range is here – I suggest you just use the amount of oil that is set automatically after you change the oil in hangar panel. Or the level you had when you first run this aircraft.
When should you add oil? When there is too little. Ok. It’s a meaningless truism. So, what it means that there is too little oil in the engine? Technically – you need just a little amount of oil in your engine. The oil that you carry is mostly a reserve. The range between 7 or 8 quarts will not make the slightest difference for your engine. Probably anything between 4 or 5 and 8 will not do the difference. The only time there is not enough oil in the system is when your instruments show a decrease in oil pressure and elevated oil temperature. The only reason for the oil tank of this size is to allow for normal oil consumption (do you remember the rings I mentioned and oil getting to pistons and being burned?). Generally, the oil tank should have a volume sufficient for normal (or even slightly elevated) oil consumption for a longest possible flight. So – if your plane has the endurance of 8 hours – you should have enough oil to burn it for 8 hours and then have enough to land.
This is something you need to consider when planning a longer flight. I would not go for a 7-hour flight in Cessna 182 with oil tank filled to two-thirds. But I would also not hesitate to do some pattern work with this amount of oil.
Another thing you need to consider is that the state of your aircraft is simulated. An older Cessna will burn more oil and a brand new will take only a little. So again – a 6-hour flight in an old and worn Cessna may require a full tank, but a new aircraft will use only a quart or two on the same flight.
I did not perform any tests that would show this precisely but I feel like the oil consumption in this aircraft is also affected by how you operate your engine. So high RPM will cause higher oil consumption and lower will decrease the amount of oil you burn. This is another reason to use this aircraft wisely.
The plane is refueled, passengers are ready, baggage is loaded. It is time for a pre-flight check.
I will not explain the obvious parts. This means there will be some gaps in this text compared to the video, but I do not want to bore you. I will focus my attention on some details that may require explanation.
Pitot tube cover
It may seem obvious… but I will use it to describe how “persistent” the A2A aircraft are. Usually (in other developers’ planes) you can set or remove static elements, but they have no influence on what happens. In fact – usually, you just can not have static elements on a plane that has its engines running (they will be removed automatically). It is not the case here. Once I was in a hurry and I skipped the pre-flight. And I did not remove the pitot tube cover. And guess what… I got into a very difficult situation when I had to choose between aborted takeoff or taking off with the airspeed indicator showing 0 knots.
Check the lights
The checklist suggests turning the battery off before the pre-flight. If you want to check your lights – it would be a good idea to keep the battery on and to switch the lights. I usually do this separately from the pre-flight – just checking the plane from every direction in outside view.
But as I previously said – I have not checked the lights before this flight. Apart from beacon and strobe lights, I will not use any lights during this flight.
Pitot tube temperature check
This is the point, that some of the real world pilots I have talked to, skip. In some stories pitot tube check consists of checking the load on the ammeter only (if I recall correctly – this is how some checklists describe this check). I usually check it. Usually. I will skip it when flying over California on a hot day.
Control surfaces and flaps
This is probably the hardest part for the virtual pilot. At first, I had no idea what to look for. And believe me (I say it from my personal experience) – the damage will not be pronounced. It will be something slight – a dislocated rod for example. I will show you some examples of possible damage in one of the next parts of this story.
Images that you see in the pre-flight show dust and wear. So you should expect some dirt, rust or paint peeling off. This is not damage – this is just how your aircraft get’s old.
Trim tab and flaps security
Press and hold the button to check trim tab or flap security. They will move a little. But just a little.
99 times out of one hundred you will get a blue fluid in this jar. That is gasoline. Once you will get a transparent fluid. That is water and you do not want to have it in your tanks and (later) in your engine.
I have never seen any other contaminants but I can not rule them out. I had water in my tanks twice (in over 200 hours in both Cessnas and Commanche).
If you see any water – get another sample. And another – until you drain all the water and get gasoline into this jar.
Water in your fuel system will cause your engine to stop. If you are lucky – it will stop just after it was started or later on the ground. If you are unlucky – it will stop during takeoff or in-flight.
Oil once again. You already know how much should there be. This time, look for any signs of oil contamination (metal particles) and age. If your oil is black – it is definitely a time to change it – go to the hangar and change the oil (and oil filter).
I just do what the checklist asks me to do. Some planes require electric booster pump during startup (low wing Pipers do), others use the booster pump only for priming (both A2A Cessnas).
In older planes you always switch all avionics to off before the startup to prevent damage from voltage changes. Some new planes do not require this and some (especially glass cockpit planes with electronic engine gauges) require the avionics to be on (or partly on) during the startup. In the case of C182, C172 and both Pipers by A2A you should turn it off.
It took 8 minutes to warm up the engine of the 182. It was a cold spring day in Norway. In winter, it can take up to 15 minutes. It is a good idea to connect the engine heater (if installed) if you fly in winter. I often overuse the engine heater because I do not like to wait. In the real world – the heater of such construction should be connected for one hour before the startup. In sim – you are safe to connect it after the previous flight. If you connect it just before the flight – you will need to wait until it gets the engine warm.
Cessna 172 has a smaller engine that warms up quicker.
When it’s just a few minutes to warm up the engine I perform additional cockpit checks – it’s a good time to set the altimeter, heading indicator, program radios, and GPS.
Magnetos check will be covered extensively in the next part of this review, so I will just shortly explain what happens on the video.
Low RPM (dead cut check)
I begin with a low RPM check that shows if the engine works in each position of magneto selector (L, R, Both). Why would I check this? A normal magneto check is performed at 1800 RPM (in Cessna 182). It is not too healthy for the engine to cut the ignition at this RPM. It is even worse what most people intuitively do in such situation – turning the ignition back to the previous position and restarting the engine at high power settings.
The second test was done at 1800 RPM. You check Cessnas at this RPM. Pipers are checked at 2000. The exact value is not that important. What is important is that you observe correct RPM changes during your checks.
Left magneto – 90 RPM drop. Right magneto – 100 RPM drop.
What happened? Each cylinder has two spark plugs that are powered by different magnetos. To get full power you need both of them to work. Turn one magneto off (technically – ground this magneto) and you have only a single spark plug in each cylinder working. Engine power drops slightly and RPM drops.
Why do we need to test it? There are three basic scenarios:
- If the RPM dropped when I selected one magneto – I know that the other magneto was grounded.
- If the RPM drop was similar (C182 handbook states that the difference should not exceed 50RPM) – then I know that both magnetos power the same amount of spark plugs (cylinders).
- If the drop was higher than 175 RPM – I know that at least one spark plug (cylinder) was not firing when it should have been.
Some problems that you can notice thanks to this test.
Spark plug malfunction – if a single spark plug is burned out or the wiring is disconnected – the cylinder will not fire during the test. So the power drop will be higher than normally and the RPM drop will be higher. The test result for such malfunction – a big difference between left and right magneto.
Incorrect magneto wiring – there are several possibilities on how magnetos can be incorrectly connected to spark plugs. Theoretically – all spark plugs may be powered by a single magneto. Test result – no RPM drop during the test.
Spark plug fouling – this happens very often and I will cover this problem in the next part of this review. If you see a jittery movement of RPM indicator and a drop higher than 175 RPM – spark plug fouling is a probable cause. Do not go to the hangar straight away. This can be solved by a proper mixture adjustments and longer run up. I will show this in the next video.
I usually check the alternator before the flight. Turning all the lights causes increased load on the electrical system. When the alternator is turned off – you should see a drop in battery voltage. When it is turned back on – the voltage should rise. Ammeter also shows discharge or charging.
Lights on this flight
I used only the beacon light and strobes during this flight. I described what lights should be turned on in a text written earlier this year.
Of what I have shown in this video – nothing is necessary for most of FSX/P3D add-on aircraft. Apart from A2A planes magneto check is actually useful in two or three add-on planes I know or I heard of. All other will show RPM drop… but it will be always the same and after a few checks, you will get bored.
Many features that I showed today are not simulated at all in other payware add-on planes. I can think of maybe two planes where you need to check the oil level. This is two of tens of piston planes available for FSX. That makes a difference and this is what sets A2A planes apart.
The best thing is – in this plane I do not perform this tasks because of some arbitrary system of points or penalties. There are no easy /instant rewards and no penalties. Usually, nothing will blow up because you forgot to flip a switch. And the engine will not die a second after you make a small mistake. It is no the “simmerism” (recent PMDG responses for the DC-6 comments explain what the “simmerism” is).
The main reward for getting thinks right is keeping the plane in a good condition. In the long run. Like in the real world. The other reward is the knowledge gained. The knowledge that these planes inspired me to gain.