Everything you do before going flying, including this daily inspection, is about discovering anything wrong with the helicopter before you get in the air.
You’re looking for anything that’s worn out or eroded or come loose since last maintenance, anything that is damaged (eg stone damage to the tail rotor, or erosion past the bond line on the blades), anything which shows evidence of abuse (eg someone has had a heavy landing and not reported it), anything that is missing (there’s a story of a guy who failed to observe that maintenance had removed the tail rotor), anything that is there that shouldn’t be (eg spanner, torch, bird’s nest, mice, water in the fuel).
I have in the past found in my Daily Inspection a hole in a tail rotor blade (probably caused by a stone being flicked up into it) large enough to get my little finger into, with the honeycomb visible. I always run the palms of both hands down the surfaces of the tail rotor blades as part of my check.
I have also found a tail cone to be loose where it’s bolted to the main fuselage frame. The only way of detecting this was to lift it gently by the TR gearbox. It moved up about 4 inches (10cm), just on the play from loose nuts. (It shouldn’t let you move it up at all). It also made a slight scraping noice, whereas normally it would make no noise at all when tightly bolted.
While on the tail cone, I suggest getting used to what it sounds like when you knock on each panel as you walk along it, and then each surface of the tail itself, and the stinger. They all have a distinctive tone when tight and undamaged.
Finally, before getting in, stand back and check that it looks and sits right on its skids. This is your opportunity to step back from the detail of the checklist, and ask yourself if there is anything obviously wrong.
I’m a big believer in washing the blades and the windscreen every day. Washing the blades allows a careful inspection, and makes the machine fly just that little bit better (less drag), and will lengthen the blade life as it will reduce damage from pollution. Washing the windscreen (with care so as not to scratch it) will help you see.
For more information on learning to fly a helicopter with me, please visit TimGilbert.com