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What is OPC in Aviation? (Operational Check)

Updated: March 06, 2024

What is an Operational Check (OPC) in Aviation?

An operational check (OPC) is a critical process in aviation that ensures the proper functioning and safety of aircraft systems and components. It involves a series of tests and inspections performed by maintenance technicians or pilots to verify that all systems are working as intended. The OPC is an essential part of regular maintenance procedures and is typically carried out before each flight or at specified intervals to ensure the aircraft's airworthiness and to identify any potential issues that may affect its performance.

During an operational check, various components and systems are examined, including the engines, flight controls, landing gear, communication systems, electrical systems, and more. The goal is to detect any malfunctions, abnormalities, or deviations from the expected performance standards. By conducting thorough OPCs, aviation professionals can identify and address any issues before they escalate into more serious problems that could compromise flight safety.

Importance of Operational Checks

Operational checks play a crucial role in maintaining the safety and reliability of aircraft. Here are a few key reasons why OPCs are so important:

Ensuring Flight Safety: Safety is paramount in aviation, and OPCs help ensure that an aircraft is in proper working order before it takes off. By identifying and addressing potential issues early on, operational checks significantly reduce the risk of in-flight emergencies or accidents caused by system failures.
Maintaining Compliance with Regulations: Aviation regulatory bodies, such as the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in the United States, require regular OPCs to ensure compliance with airworthiness standards. By conducting these checks, aircraft operators demonstrate their commitment to meeting safety regulations and maintaining the airworthiness of their fleet.
Preventing In-Flight Disruptions: An aircraft malfunction during a flight can cause significant disruptions, delays, and inconvenience for passengers. By performing comprehensive OPCs, airlines and operators can minimize the chances of such disruptions, ensuring smoother and more efficient operations.
Prolonging the Lifespan of Aircraft: Regular OPCs help detect and address minor issues before they develop into major problems that could require costly repairs or lead to premature retirement of an aircraft. By maintaining systems and components in optimal condition, operational checks contribute to extending the lifespan of aircraft and maximizing their operational efficiency.

The Process of an Operational Check

The process of conducting an operational check involves several steps and procedures. While the specific checks may vary depending on the aircraft type and manufacturer's recommendations, the general process typically includes the following:

Preparation: Before conducting an OPC, the maintenance technician or pilot will gather the necessary documentation, including the aircraft's maintenance manual, checklist, and any specific instructions or procedures provided by the manufacturer. They will also visually inspect the aircraft for any visible signs of damage or abnormalities.
System Activation: The next step involves activating and testing various systems and components of the aircraft. This may include starting the engines, engaging the flight controls, testing the landing gear, verifying the functionality of communication systems, and checking the electrical systems, among others.
Functional Testing: Once the systems are activated, functional testing is performed to ensure that each component is operating correctly. This may involve verifying the response of flight controls, checking the accuracy of instruments and gauges, testing the autopilot system, and assessing the performance of navigation and communication equipment.
Comprehensive Inspection: In addition to functional testing, a comprehensive inspection is conducted to identify any underlying issues that may not be apparent during the system activation or functional testing phase. This involves a thorough examination of critical components, connecting systems, wiring, and other elements that contribute to the aircraft's overall performance.
Documentation and Reporting: Throughout the OPC process, detailed records of the checks performed, any issues identified, and the actions taken are documented. This documentation serves as a reference for future maintenance and helps ensure compliance with regulatory requirements.

It is important to note that an OPC is not a substitute for routine maintenance or more in-depth inspections. It is a preliminary check designed to assess the immediate airworthiness of an aircraft before each flight. Additionally, operational checks may be more extensive for larger commercial aircraft compared to smaller general aviation aircraft.

In conclusion, operational checks (OPCs) are a vital aspect of aviation maintenance and safety. By systematically testing and inspecting various systems and components, OPCs help ensure the airworthiness of aircraft, prevent in-flight disruptions, and maintain compliance with regulatory standards. Conducting thorough operational checks before each flight plays a crucial role in minimizing the risk of system failures and promoting overall flight safety and reliability.

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