At Team RV, we find strength in numbers: 12 pilots and a crew chief provide a deep reservoir of knowledge to draw from when we are presented with challenges or identify new needs for the team. Our recently instituted Firewall Forward (FWF) Inspection Program is a perfect example.
Our exciting air show program and busy schedule increase wear on aircraft compared to what we did fly just two years ago. A more demanding program and additional miles to and from venues mean we must be ever vigilant and thorough when it comes to maintenance.
With precaution in mind, Team RV Wingman and Safety Officer Charlie "Bones" Plunkett devised the FWF inspection program and implemented it this month. He realized that Team RV is uniquely qualified to inspect airplanes. Nine (9) pilots on the team collectively hold 12 FAA repairman certificates, and this huge amount of training and safety experience is the basis for FWF.
Bob Gibbons (left), James Clark, and Charlie Plunkett (standing, right) thoroughly inspect Plunkett's RV-8 from the firewall forward.
Every year in January, each team pilot must have two fellow wingmen conduct a thorough inspection of their engine systems forward of the firewall. Small remedies are completed on the spot. Any fix not done on site must be inspected and signed off by another pilot.
"Even accomplished builders can miss things," said Plunkett referring to the fact that many pilots on Team RV built their aircraft, and all pilots perform most of their maintenance. "No matter how confident we are in our workmanship, we welcome an extra set of eyes," he said. Beyond the FAA-required annual inspection that pilots must complete, this FWF program will catch oversights.
Plunkett created a checklist sorted by systems: fuel lines and hoses, oil lines and hoses, wiring and routing, intakes and exhaust, and general housekeeping. The process and small repairs take two to three hours per plane.
Examples of potential problems found and averted include an oil cooler bracket that is being replaced because a hairline crack warranted further scrutiny and revealed an underlying cause; zip ties used to secure wire bundles and hoses were replaced with preferred adel clamps and aircraft lacing tape (zip ties are fine aft of the firewall); and, in a few instances, fire sleeving was installed on fuel and oil lines for added fire protection.
What Team RV achieves in the air is no small feat, but as every pilot knows, safety begins and ends on the ground. This annual, pre-season FWF Inspection Program is an invaluable addition to our safety program and just one example of how we find strength in numbers.