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Feature Article: Aircraft Preflight

FAR 91.103 refers to weather, airport data and POH information on aircraft performance. FAR 91.7(b) refers to inspection of aircraft condition for safe flight. If a situation exceeds your knowledge or experience, get expert advice.

We are now ready to go through the preflight. Every effort is made to minimize the wasted time and movement about the aircraft while maximizing a through inspection. As though walking up to the C-150 for the first time we unchain the left wing. Note right main tire for yellow chalk mark showing that refueling has taken place since last flight. (This is so that we don't have to walk over to it again when we roll the aircraft tires for inspection.) We use a single key to open the door and place it on the floor below the trim wheel. (A single key is not as likely to result in an accidental turning off of the magnetos as is a key ring full of keys.) (Placing the key on the interior cowling has caused many a key to disappear down the defroster hole.)

Fuel may be ordered by radio using 122.95. This is the universal frequency used at airports with towers for Unicom services such as ordering a taxi or fuel. At CCR we normally use Chevron and call the truck as "Chevron one". If the truck fails to answer contact "Chevron Base". Give your location as "East Ramp Golf two Cessna 6185K". With the new aircraft cover you should check the logbook to ascertain if any remark is there that would make the aircraft unairworthy.

Preset radios and transponder. Remove the control lock, turn on the master, check the fuel gauges, and say, "Clear flaps" before lowering the flaps. (Get fuel as necessary.) The "regulations" requires that a fuel gauge be accurate ONLY when reading full and empty. Open right door and get fuel sump cup. Drain and check fuel in left tank. Place sump cup in right seat. (You don't need to carry it) Check wheel faring (brake lines if visible), front and back side of left flap and antennas. Check empennage, horizontal and vertical stabilizer, elevator hinges and movement on left side. Remove tail chain. Check rudder hinges and movement. Check elevator (under side, too) and trim hinges and movement on right side. Check empennage. Check back side of right flap, front and back of right flap hinges, counterweight and movement. Wing tip and right leading edge. Unchain right wing, check underside of right flap and drain right wing sump. Return sump cup. Check right fuel tank and cap.

Check nose wheel faring, strut, and damper, inside engine compartment, loosen oil stick with left hand, remove with right hand, clean with left hand, re-insert and check for 4 quarts minimum. Pull fuel strainer with right hand and clean left hand with gasoline. Oil stick can be hung on prop blade while adding oil. (Be sure not to lose seal off lid of bottle into engine.) Don't make oil cap too tight. Check leading edge of propeller, spinner mounting plate for cracking, and cowling inlets. Make sure air filter is secure and intact. Watch for 'working rivets, those that have gray powder around them. Roll aircraft at least 40 inches to check tires. If diagonal cord shows in a smooth area the tire is unsafe for flight. Check static air hole, overflow, pitot tube, and stall warner. Don't blow into any aircraft instrument intake hole. Check left fuel tank and cap. Check left leading edge and tip. Check left aileron front back, movement and counterweight. Rocking the wings and gently moving horizontal stabilizers is a good way to pick up internal damage via sound. Do the 'squat test' to make sure everything is clear of the aircraft. The only difference in preflighting a C-172 is the luggage door and alternator belt.

The preflight requires the student to be aware of the possible causes of accidental propeller movement. That the key may possibly be removed from other than the off position. That the magneto can be otherwise grounded and allow a short movement of the propeller to start the engine. That, while there is no absolute safe way to turn the propeller, backwards is the safest. (Do not turn propeller of C-150 backwards). The only time you can have too much fuel is when you are on fire. From full tanks the maximum safe flight time of a C-150 is three hours. The tanks are full and the caps are tight only when checked by the pilot. No C-150 flight should be undertaken with less than four quarts of oil. Failure to monitor a radio frequency prior to transmitting as well as being poorly prepared to talk impinge on the flight safety of everyone. Poor use of the radio is the most common failing of the incompetent pilot.

Throughout the first preflight the instructor keeps up a running commentary into the tape recorder as to the why's, wherefore's and how to's for each check. On successive flights additional operational checklists are added. The first student effort is usually pages long. The second effort is more concise. For the third effort the instructor provides a twice folded 4 x 6 card cut half way through one fold. This card can be made into a compact but complete checklist covering all operations from preflight to shutdown. Arrows can be used below each list to indicate direction to fold card. Emergency list is in outlined red. Finally the pilot developed list is cross-checked with the manual approved one to make sure that all items are covered.

Where the student has previous flight experience the same process is used but the pilot is allowed to build on his experience. I feel it is vital that a pilot have his own personally developed checklist for every aircraft flown. Build on first learned skills and habits. The published and universal lists omit or rearrange the order of items so that mistakes often occur. The checklist must contain all items from the aircraft manual BUT there are many supplementary items of radio, transponder, leaning, taxiing, braking, and clearing that are not mentioned. Time is never wasted giving a careful preflight.


Confirm ability to get full use of rudder and brakes. Use cushions as required. Adjust so you can see instruments, over the glare shield, under the wing of Cessnas and below the aircraft. Don't sit where head movements are required to see instruments related to IFR control. Be aware that having to reach to rotate head can induce vertigo. Always confirm locking of seat rails. Consistent setting of the seat will make your flying more consistent.


The use of checklists prevents accidents. The most likely misuse of a checklist is when an interruptions occurs in mid-use. With two people the challenge-response process is best. Professionals use checklists.

One checklist development process is devoted to the flow of the list. The list starts at the top of the panel and works down, or left to right or right to left. The flow can even be a series of S-turns. Try to make your student checklist one that will flow with later and higher-performance aircraft.

Preflight Options

· Doing all that needs doing well and efficiently means that every item is sequenced for a minimum of body, head, hand movement and time. Try to develop a flow pattern checklist for the procedures that remain constant for the aircraft. Arrange and rearrange the items into sequences and groups that flow the way you flow. Then give each item a finger in your sequence that will be used to touch each item as it is checked.

Develop a Pattern for:

1. Arrival
Consider getting the servicing of the aircraft completed the night before or phone before leaving for the airport. Check the tires while walking to the plane. Check the wind sock and traffic pattern while driving into the airport.
2. Cockpit
Leave the baggage door unlocked since it makes an excellent emergency exit.
· Place the keys in plane sight on the floor or hanging off the compass. Check the aircraft to Arrange and rearrange the items into sequences and groups that flow the way you flow. Then give each item a finger in your sequence that will be used to touch each item as it is checked.
me log book and aircraft papers.
3. Exterior
Check antennas for corrosion, cracks and security. Knock on spinner and propeller to confirm that sound remains the same. Changes in sound would indicate cracks.
4. Prestart
For some aircraft this would begin with (1) prime since several minutes may be required to allow fuel to spread through the intake manifold. Do not make this list a how-to-do list. (2)Seats, belts, doors , (3) Master, pump
pressure, gauges (4) Mixture, Prop, Throttle, C. H. (5) flaps (2)
5. Taxiing
Check attitude indicator, turn coordinator and heading indicator.
6. Runup
Check VOR sensitivity (10 degrees to each side of center both TO/FROM.
ADF selector switch to ADF.

Last Modified August 20, ©2022 TAGE.COM

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