What is OPC in Aviation? (Operational Check)

In aviation, safety is of utmost importance. Every aircraft undergoes various checks and inspections to ensure its proper functioning and airworthiness. One of the important checks carried out on aircraft is the Operational Check, commonly abbreviated as OPC. It is a vital step in the aircraft maintenance process that verifies the functionality and performance of different aircraft systems and components. In this article, we will delve deeper into what an Operational Check entails and how it plays a crucial role in ensuring the safety and reliability of an aircraft.

Operational Check: Ensuring Optimal Performance

The operational check is a comprehensive evaluation of the aircraft’s systems and components, confirming that they are fully operational and capable of performing their intended functions. It involves running various tests and procedures both on the ground and during flight to assess the functionality, reliability, and efficiency of critical systems.

During an operational check, the aircraft is taken through a series of simulated flight operations, allowing engineers and technicians to observe the performance and response of different systems under various conditions. These tests subject the aircraft to scenarios that it may encounter during actual flights, ensuring that all systems function properly and meet the required standards.

The operational check covers a wide range of systems and components, including but not limited to:

  • Engine performance and monitoring systems
  • Electrical and avionics systems
  • Hydraulic and pneumatic systems
  • Landing gear and braking systems
  • Fuel and air delivery systems
  • Flight control systems

To perform the operational check, technicians and engineers follow a specific checklist provided by the aircraft manufacturer or regulatory authorities. This checklist outlines the procedures and tests that need to be carried out to ensure the aircraft’s systems are fully operational. It includes steps such as operating all switches, monitoring instrument readings, testing emergency procedures, and assessing the aircraft’s response to different inputs.

The Significance of Operational Checks

The operational check is an indispensable part of aircraft maintenance and plays a crucial role in ensuring the safety and airworthiness of an aircraft. Here are some key reasons why operational checks are so important:

1. Identifying Potential Issues: By subjecting the aircraft to simulated flight conditions and operational scenarios, an operational check helps in identifying potential issues or malfunctions in the aircraft systems. This proactive approach allows technicians to detect and address any problems before they become a safety risk during actual flights. Early detection of issues leads to better maintenance planning and timely repairs, reducing the chances of in-flight emergencies or incidents.

2. Ensuring Proper Functioning: An operational check ensures that all systems and components of the aircraft are functioning as intended. It verifies that critical systems are working properly, such as the engines, flight controls, avionics, and landing gear. By carrying out these checks, operators can have the confidence that their aircraft is in optimal condition, minimizing the risk of mechanical failures or system malfunctions during flight.

3. Compliance with Regulatory Standards: Aviation regulatory authorities, such as the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in the United States, mandate operational checks as part of regular maintenance requirements. These checks are essential to comply with airworthiness standards and regulations to ensure the safety of passengers and crew. Failure to conduct operational checks can result in penalties, grounding of aircraft, or even revocation of operating licenses.

The Process of an Operational Check

The process of conducting an operational check involves several steps that ensure a thorough evaluation of the aircraft’s systems and components. Here is a general outline of the process:

1. Preparation: Prior to conducting an operational check, technicians review the manufacturer’s checklist and gather the necessary tools and equipment. They also ensure that the aircraft is in a suitable condition for the check, including proper fuel and hydraulic fluid levels, battery charge, and overall cleanliness.

2. Ground Testing: The first phase of operational checks involves conducting tests and inspections while the aircraft is on the ground. Technicians run the necessary procedures to test the various systems and components covered by the checklist. This includes checking instrument readings, operating switches and controls, and verifying the overall functionality of the aircraft’s electrical, hydraulic, and pneumatic systems.

3. Flight Testing: After completing the ground testing phase, the aircraft is taken for a flight to evaluate its performance under various conditions. During the flight, technicians perform specific maneuvers and operations to assess the response and functionality of critical systems. This may involve testing the engines at different power settings, operating the flight controls through their full range of motion, and observing the behavior of avionics systems during different flight phases.

4. Documentation and Reporting: After the operational check is completed, technicians document the results, noting any issues or abnormalities observed during the testing process. This documentation serves as a record for future reference and helps in planning necessary repairs or maintenance actions. It also allows for traceability and accountability, ensuring that appropriate measures are taken to address any identified issues.

It is important to note that the specifics of an operational check may vary depending on the type of aircraft and the manufacturer’s instructions. However, the overall objective remains the same – to assess the aircraft’s performance, detect any anomalies, and ensure its airworthiness.

The operational check is a critical process that contributes to the overall safety and reliability of an aircraft. By thoroughly evaluating the aircraft’s systems, operators can prevent potential issues, ensure optimal performance, and comply with industry regulations. It plays a significant role in the ongoing maintenance and airworthiness management of aviation fleets.

For More: What is V/S in Aviation? (Vertical Speed)