An airplane’s propeller is a vital component, without it you’re not going anywhere… When it comes to the preflight inspection there are multiple inspection items related to the propeller. As much as flying requires dedication and commitment, it shouldn’t take blood, sweat and tears! Smiles is more than enough!
1. Check to make sure the propeller is firmly attached.
If you’re flying your own aircraft and the aircraft is not fresh out of maintenance then chances are you’re prop is still firmly attached since your last flight. For renters and student pilots, aircraft come and go from the maintenance shop frequently, so it’s always a good idea to confirm the prop is fully bolted on. A firm hold with a light amount of pressure to push or pull the blade of the prop will give you a good indication that the propeller is firmly bolted onto the craft.
2. Check for internal soundness
Knock, knock, who’s there? Give a couple of knocks on the propeller blades. Start close to the propeller hub and work outward (Note: this only works on one-piece, fixed pitch propellers). The sound you’ll hear will have a “ding” sound to it, like a bell, this tells you that the propeller is solid throughout, where as a flat “thud”-like sound may indicate an issue. To hear the difference in sounds, knock on the prop you’ll hear the “twang” sound then knock on the cowling, the sound will be different due to the type of material but you will notice the sound will be more dull and flat like a “thud” than a “twang”.
3. Check for nicks along the leading edge
Every now and then a rouge rock or other piece of debris will get pulled into the propeller and cause a nick in the leading edge of the prop. This can happen on a runway, taxiway, apron and especially while operating off solid surfaces such as on a soft field runway. Sometimes these nicks will be large enough to spot visually, other times, due to the location of the nick, the ambient light and the color of the propeller, these nicks might be camouflaged and more difficult to detect.
Many pilots rub the leading edge of each propeller blade with their fingers. I can tell you that when a nick is present and this technique is used it doesn’t go well. It hurts and it’s an actual “bloody mess” that can literally lead to stitches… While I’ve never experienced this myself, I have watched other pilots do it and each time I cringe… I remember vividly a friend of mine slicing three of their four fingers doing this and there was blood everywhere!
This is a risk that can so easily be eliminated, yet so often is not… So the “pro tip” of today’s post is the use the edge of your checklist to check the propeller blade. By dragging the edge of your checklist along the leading edge of the propeller blades starting from the hub and working out, you will notice any nicks which cause the checklist edge to get caught up but you will not risk a gash across your fingers. I’ve used this technique for years, found various prop nicks and never shed any blood when I found them, give it a shot, what have you got to lose?
-Fly Safe, @MTElia1B9