The Aircraft Walk Around

Aircraft Walk Around contributes to maintaining the safety of the aircraft.

The exterior inspection is done to make sure that the overall condition of the aircraft and the components and equipment that can be seen are safe for the flight.

The pilot primarily inspects outside parts of the aircraft they will steer, e.g. control surfaces, tires and possible leaks from fuel or oil.

Ronald Carpenter, former US Air Force F-15 Eagle maintainer, explains on Quora;

USAF F-15 maintainer recalls when an Eagle pilot lost his F-15 canopy in flight after he forgot to lock it down before launch and explains why the Walk Around is always an important pre-flight routine
Pre-flight inspection on an F-15 Eagle

‘The pilot isn’t actually the final set of eyes looking for flaws, that belongs to the End of Runway (EOR) crew before they pull all the pins, but the pilot is one of the final looks.

‘Everyone gets busy and overwhelmed sometimes, and without multiple people looking for problems anything can happen. My crew was working on a recuperating Eagle (F-15) adjacent to a broken one, bringing it up to snuff. The broken one looked like it was undergoing major surgery surrounded by ground equipment.

‘When a pilot came racing out to the dead one, he fast walked a circle around the plane, eyes on the wings and missile rails and flaps and armament placard, but never once looked down.

‘I told my crew “Hey watch this guy.”

An important pre-flight routine

F-15C Eagle 144th Fighter Wing print
This print is available in multiple sizes from AircraftProfilePrints.com – CLICK HERE TO GET YOURS. F-15C Eagle 144th Fighter Wing, 194th Fighter Squadron, CA/80-004 – California Air National Guard – Fresno ANG Base, CA – 2016

‘The pilot scrambled up into the cockpit and yelled for the crew chief to get the ground gear out of the way because he had to launch. The chief yelled back you can’t take this plane, and some back and forth ensued while the chief tried to be diplomatic. Finally the chief said “Sir this plane hasn’t got any wheels!”

‘’Sure enough it was up on jacks. The pilot flew down the ladder, gave an angry look, and bolted back to the line truck. But it wasn’t wasted embarrassment. I’m sure the rest of his career he did a tighter walk around.

‘One of my Navy buds said when one of his jets landed and taxied in, he saw a flashlight dangling from the pitot tube inside the engine cowling! Instantly he realized the maintenance boob that climbed in to check the blades hung it there, and snatched it before anyone else saw! If that wire strap snapped in flight it would have made the engine very unhappy, not to mention the pilot.

‘Every step in a pre-flight is there for a reason, even shaking the missiles on the rails. We had a loosely hung missile on an Eagle once, the detent didn’t grab hold, but it didn’t fly off the front of the rail when he landed, like the one on that carrier.

USAF F-15 maintainer recalls when an Eagle pilot lost his F-15 canopy in flight after he forgot to lock it down before launch and explains why the Walk Around is always an important pre-flight routine

F-15 Eagle losing canopy in flight

‘We did, however, have an Eagle pilot forget to lock down his canopy before launch.

The canopy ripped off as he climbed. He was second to launch in a surge of 8 planes, and it was winter in Virginia. By the time those six behind him cleared the runway and he could call an IFE and circle back to land, he was hunkered down like an old man driving a big Caddy on the Florida interstate.

Carpenter concludes;

‘The rumor was he suffered frostbite but no one was sure. No one was injured but I’m sure the ass kicking from the DCM was painful. I got my hands on a piece of cockpit glass where it struck and shattered, but gave it to the First Sergeant dammit. Also had a 30mm training shell from a Warthog, but gave that away to a pretty girl. I was such a sucker in those days.’

F-15 model
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Photo credit: Master Sgt. Larry Show / U.S. Air Force and U.S. Navy