Preparation is everything for a pilot. When we drive a car or ride a bike, most of us take the vehicle’s safety and operationality for granted; we assume that when we turn that key or press down on that pedal, the vehicle will get us to where we need to be. We choose the direction and decide on the speed at which we travel, but we generally aren’t concerned that the vehicle itself might give out on us midway through a journey. Pilots don’t have the luxury of that kind of inattention. The added thrill of traversing the air instead of a road comes with a caveat: one ill-prepared takeover could result in major mechanical damage or human casualties. For a pilot, a pre-flight routine isn’t something to fly through and be done with; every box needs to be carefully checked. In this blog, I outline just a few of the basic pre-flight steps I take before every take off. Be sure to reach out to your flight instructor if you find yourself unsure or needing more information!
Check the Logbook
The person in the cockpit is responsible for the plane. It does not matter if the person who used the vehicle before you broke or misused the plane, because you would have caught any problems they made if you had conducted a proper pre-flight check. Moreover, you are liable for further damages to the plane if they had noted their concerns and you failed to read the log or address the problem before taking off.
Check the Weather
The day might look sunny and clear now – but how will it look in an hour, when you’re at too high an altitude to get out from under a sudden storm? Always be sure to double-check the weather before you fly out!
Talk to Air Traffic Control
Air Traffic Control will always have more up-to-date information about potential issues on your flight path than you will. Take advantage of their resources! Check in with ATC before every flight to ensure that no detours or sudden changes will be needed in-flight.
Re-check Your Calculations
As it turns out, math does matter! Even a small miscalculation could leave you facing significant problems in the air if you begin to run low on fuel or need to balance an overloaded plane. Always check that you have enough fuel for the journey you intend to take!
Know Your Contingency Plans
What do you do when the worst happens? Have contingency plans for common problems memorized and at the ready. No one wants to be shuffling for emergency protocol papers during an emergency landing!