Best practices for flying after extended time in shop

Our never ending annual is getting closer to being over - may actually be one year to the day by the time all is said and done.

Was talking to my buddy that I own the plane with about the best way to start flying the plane after the extended time in the shop. By that I mean - I have seen several comments along the way about how it is not good for an engine to sit for a long time and then go straight to flying regular use of say 10-20 hours per month for a year.

I figure it is not like the discussions I have seen about breaking in a new engine - but I was wondering if there is some similar process for getting an engine back into service after a long time off. Trying to avoid damaging the engine through ignorance.

We plan to talk to the mechanic about this when we are done and get the plane back but thought I would see what others had to say on this.

Thanks - hope this question makes some sense.


  • It's a good question to ask. A&Ps are very familiar with this situation, since it's common for A/C to sit for an extended period during maintenance. Most will run the engine(s) monthly to get it(them) up to operating temperature and keep corrosion at bay; pre-lube the turbocharger and propeller (if required); and keep the battery on a charger so the starter isn't lugging. I even know one who will pull the rods and directly lubricate the camshaft after long periods of disuse. This only applies on Continental engines.

    The other consideration is the pilot. From my perspective that first post-maintenance test flight is likely the most risky you'll ever make. Case in point: Last summer I picked up my plane after six months of major maintenance. The preflight and runup went smoothly, as did the ground roll and lift-off. But then passing through 100' AGL my left foot went all the way to the floorboards, simultaneous with my shouting "WTF!" (I doubt I abbreviated) That's when luck smiled on me. As a result of my nervousness about the test flight, I had spent the previous two days at Simcom, where they grilled me on all the emergency procedures. Next thing I knew, the ASI was glued to the blue line, the RE was feathered and secure, and we were entering right downwind for the emergency landing. Only non-practice engine failure I've had in 25 years of flying multis.

    You might ask your co-owner to join you on that first flight; or better yet, invite your mechanic! : - )

    good luck,


  • If you anticipate a long annual I think it would be good to have them change the oil hot, replace filter, fill with fresh oil/filter. It might make sense to put a fogging oil in the cylinders with the plugs removed.
    If it is a heated shop then should do ok with little to no prep. If it is unheated with big temp swings you are asking for trouble with extended downs

    Also discuss keeping the battery charged.


    Eric Panning
    1981 Seneca III
    Hillsboro, OR (KHIO)

  • Thanks - I know that it has not been run since last December after they tore into it for the annual and took it all apart - panel - gas tanks - carb box - etc. We did not plan on it being this long but that is just what happened. They are getting ready to put panel back in - put door back on and replace the window and then we can finish up the interior.

    As far as who flies it - that is a really good point. My buddy is working on his PPL and only has 100 hrs or so. Won’t be me because I don’t fly - I just bought this as an investment opportunity. Will prolly get his CFI to go up with him so that there is an extra set of hands in case there is something come up - really hope not. Damn - that sounds scary

    Thanks for the info
  • edited October 2021

    I have a different opinion than Bob, above. On your first flight don't take anyone else with you. First, there's no reason to risk two lives and two, that person will only be a distraction to you.
    Good luck!

    Scott Sherer
    Wright Brothers Master Pilot, FAA Commercial Pilot
    Aviation Director, Piper Owner Society Forum Moderator and Pipers Author.

    Need help? Let me know!

  • I agree with Scott. BUT that does not stop me from telling my AP/IA that I am scheduling his daughter (CFI) for a training flight after an annual!

  • Perfecto, Ray! :)

    Scott Sherer
    Wright Brothers Master Pilot, FAA Commercial Pilot
    Aviation Director, Piper Owner Society Forum Moderator and Pipers Author.

    Need help? Let me know!

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