How to prepare your glider for the soaring season

Number of technical questions directed to Allstar indicates that users of SZD gliders began intensive pre-season work on their gliders. That's good, because before the first take-offs in the season you might want to prepare your glider as best as possible.

Technical verification should proceed in parallel with updating airworthiness documents. Remember that even the best-prepared documents such as maintenance checks, SBs or life-limited parts records will not improve the flight safety, if the technical verification and repairs will not be done.

EASA impose certain rules for the inspection and maintenance. The quintessence of these regulations is Maintenance Program acc. to M.A.302 for Part M of (EC) No 2042/2003. Depending on the provisions in the Program, you can outsource maintenance work to certified organizations (Part 145, Part M / F), or – to a limited extent – do it yourself. In the latter case, the approval of the NAA for a program for your glider in accordance with MA803 will be necessary.

Minimum amount of maintenance work required before the season is specified in Technical Service Manual (Schedule of Maintenance Works; to check the current status of your manual visit szd.com.pl). Note, however, that the Schedule of Maintenance Works may also include other important works, such as 50/100 hour or yearly checks, TBO of releases, cables, weighing etc.

Notwithstanding the foregoing, some additional unscheduled checks might be necessary. Careful verification of the airframe structure and other elements may reveal the need to remove the defects, which appeared as a result of the glider storage for the winter (unscheduled maintenance). The most common will be:
  • damage of lacquer coat, cracks and dents,
  • stratification of composite structure (due to condensation or freezing of water),
  • corrosion of metal elements,
  • cracks in plexiglass,
  • damage to the internal structure of the fuselage or wings caused by rodents.

Special attention we turn to the possible consequences of home-made repairs, mainly painting and repainting. Even minor repairs of any flight control surface (elevator, rudder, each of the ailerons), will lead to unacceptable changes of hinge moments. As a consequence, dangerous vibration may occur (flutter). It is worth remembering that the aeroelastic phenomena are the reason for airworthiness limitations like VNE, VRA, VA. Proper mass balance of all glider controls is a basic criteria for safe exploitation.

As the cases of inaccurate and unprofessional repairs are not uncommon, it is better to entrust them to professionals. You should also read the glider manuals (Flight Manual, Maintenance Manual and related publications) as it’s the absolute minimum for each user.

Bear in mind that an aviation accident usually occurs as a result of combination of a number of factors, whether caused by human activity and/or the conditions in which one had to operate (the theory of J. Reason). The first flights of the season (usually after a few months break) and technical oversight in the glider after a period of downtime, are undoubtedly unfavourable circumstances.

Fly safely!

Text prepared in cooperation with the Wytwórnia Konstrukcji Kompozytowych, a certified maintenance organization PL.MF (read more).