Here’s a familiar scenario: You’re on a budget and money can only be allotted toward tools and equipment that get your aircraft up and flying. What do you purchase?
Obviously every pilot and plane owner will have different requirements based on their own unique maintenance needs at any given moment.
“Safety first.” Isn’t that the expression that should take precedence and determine what supplies are truly required?
With all that cloud-surfing at high speeds you are bound to encounter areas on your aircraft where fasteners loosen. Complications arising from vibrational forces are matters that should not be dismissed so easily. Routine maintenance and repair should include the use of safety wire.
In fact, according to the FAA’s 14 CFR Part 43 the use of safety wire is one example of a preventative maintenance item and is included as an item in a propeller check.
So what is safety wire and why should you use it? We have defined safety wire and its use in a previous blog post.
However it bears repeating that safety wire is a means of preventing vibration from compromising applicable fasteners from loosening in the event that they fail during operations.
Aviation is not natural. When you transport a person through the air you have to compensate for natural forces that resist. That which is unnatural is usually dangerous. And so that’s why the aviation industry ensures there are systems in place to buffer and backup. In other words, one component fails there is another in place and another. Safety wire works on the same principle. It’s peace of mind.
Besides peace of mind, there are other benefits to using safety wire. First it can act as an aid during inspections. If safety wire is applied and it is out of place or broken, this indicates that vibrational forces have acted on those fasteners and thus may need to be repaired or replaced before next flight. But how would you know this? Safety wire, in its twisted configuration, is highly visible and displays an assurance that fasteners held to scrutiny are secure.
Safety wire is also relatively inexpensive and the tools and accessories are not hard to find. Also these tools are not as rigidly limited in use, meaning it’s not like you need a specific screwdriver or bit to properly fit a screw head. Safety wire pliers, twisters, and tabs have a wide, almost universal field of use.
Still, safety wire has a few downsides that are worth noting. Casual plane owners may find it takes time to properly install; in this case it might be easier to seek assistance from a qualified mechanic or technician.
Another problem may occur when cutting excess wire. Small pieces may cause injury to either person or plane so it is important to properly clean the area of excess bits of wire scrap after completion of installation as well as to wear adequate safety gloves and eyewear during application. After all safety first, right?
For more information on the implementation of safety wire, aka “safetying,” please refer to, Pages 7-19 to 7-26 Section 7, Chapter 7 of the FAA’s Advisory Circular AC 43.13-1B.