The Pickup Preflight

Pickup lines don’t usually work out too well, unless they’re extremely clever and delivered “on point”. The “pickup preflight” works in much the same way. Every now and then a flight doesn’t really start when we board the aircraft. As a flight instructor it can be a common occurrence to be picked up for a flight, especially a currency flight, flight review or FAA Wings flight. During these instances the pilot will fly their aircraft, owned or rented into the airport where we (their flight instructor) are located to pick us up to begin a particular flight lesson.

Photo Feb 22, 11 56 22 AM

The pilot & plane got to you without issue, so it must be good to go up again, right? Maybe, but it’s worth it to ALWAYS do a preflight before jumping in and heading down the runway!

As a result, the pilot performed their own preflight inspection and safely flew the aircraft to my location. How much of a preflight inspection is appropriate from me or someone in my situation prior to boarding the aircraft?

Ask anyone whose flown with me and they’ll tell you, “Matt needs to do his own preflight before he even thinks about getting in and going flying.”

Sure the pilot I’m about to go flying with flew to my location in this instance so the plane must have been preflighted appropriately, right? In reality, it’s highly likely… But, that doesn’t mean I (or you) need to feel comfortable going flying without checking for myself.

The way I look at it this whole thing is pretty simple. Once we begin that takeoff roll, pulling over to check something out, like you could do in a car on a road, just isn’t an option. It’s pivotal that everything be as right as possible. As I tell student pilots, no one ever ran out of fuel because they took the time to confirm they had enough fuel. Similarly, no one ever seized an engine because they took the time to ensure the aircraft had the appropriate oil quantity before departure.

As you’ve probably guessed by this point, I always recommend a thorough preflight before each flight. Even if I am not going to be flying the airplane, I ask for visual confirmation on the fuel, oil, flight controls and conditions of the landing gear at an absolute minimum.

There are a variety of ways to do this for pilots flying with friends as opposed to an instructor who can “require” the action of a student or rated pilot receiving instruction. An aircraft owner friend coming to pick you up is another situation where you may face the need for another preflight. One simple way to ask for a preflight of your own, even if you’re just going along for the ride is to explain that you’d like a preflight walk-around demonstration because the aircraft is different from the aircraft you normally fly. The preflight will do two things, first it will ensure the fluids are appropriately filled and second to serve as an introduction to the new or slightly unfamiliar aircraft.

Remember, just because the aircraft was flown from one point to another doesn’t mean that a new preflight check before taking off again is not in order. There may have been enough fuel to make the flight from the pilot’s home airport to yours, but is there enough fuel to accomplish the next portion of the flight? This is just one example, similarly a poor landing could have resulted in aircraft damage when the pilot arrived to pick you up.

Regardless or whether or not you’re the pilot flying, remember it’s ALWAYS OKAY to preflight the aircraft or request a preflight. Just keep in mind, no one ever had an accident because they completed a preflight inspection appropriately…

-Fly Safe, @MTElia1B9


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