Preflight Preparation: Beyond the Inspection

Prior to any time a pilot climbs aboard an aircraft and takes to the skies a thorough and detailed preflight inspection is a necessity. Ensuring the aircraft is ready to fly and in a safe condition are just a part of the preflight preparation puzzle. Often times the focus is on preparing the physical aircraft for flight. Ensuring the craft is fueled, the oil is filled to the appropriate level and all of the lights work are just a few of the key steps. Preflight preparation goes much further…

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When I approach an aircraft to fly I complete a three step process:

  1. Preflight inspection – this is the check of the aircraft, flight controls, fuels, etc…
  2. Surroundings assessment – check to ensure that the aircraft can be safely maneuvered on the ground from where it is parked to the taxiways and runways
  3. Cockpit setup – this is completing my personal configuration of the cockpit

Of course it is critical to complete the preflight inspection and ensure that the airplane can be started and make the taxi. This includes ensuring there is adequate clearance and the aircraft is not blocked in on a ramp and that there are no obstructions in the way. But the third step is my focus today…

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Some times, preparing the cockpit before a flight means finding a make-shift cup holder for my iced coffee!

The cockpit setup is really the process of making the cockpit you-friendly prior to flying. The obvious first step is plugging in your headset. But that is just the beginning! For me, this process includes removing my wallet and keys from my pants pockets to my flight bag. Additionally, I will set up a suction-cup window phone mount to hold my iPhone so I can utilize the ForeFlight GPS capabilities. Any time I utilize ForeFlight I ensure that I connect my cigarette-lighter USB charger and then make sure the charger cable doesn’t interfere with the flight controls.

This process also includes items such as setting the sunshield where I want to have it positioned. Then I set the seat height to the appropriate location. For the Cessna172S model, that I flew for the majority of my flight instruction, that was 7 cranks of the lever from the lowest setting.

These items are all things that should be accomplished prior to climbing aboard the aircraft. This will make life easier once in the airplane. Rather than having to deal with being cramped and not set up. It is best to have these things completed prior to starting the aircraft so that completing the items don’t become a distraction during the taxi or during flight. Again, the more you can accomplish prior to starting the aircraft the fewer distractions you will have in your way. Remember, there is no need to rush, taking your time to get set up appropriately from the beginning will make your life (and flight) easier!

-Fly Safe, @MTElia1B9


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