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Preflight

Introduction:

  • Preflight is the most important phase of any flight activity which sets the stage for the entire flight
  • Its purpose is to find problems with the aircraft before flight
  • While often the most tedious, it is where all planning and "chair flying" is conducted in order to reduce/prevent possible errors and problems in flight
  • In accordance with Federal Aviation Regulation (FAR), Part 91.7, it is the responsibility of the Pilot-In-Command (PIC) to determine if an aircraft is airworthy

Preflight Briefings:

  • Pilots must brief the passengers of seatbelt regulations and their use as prescribed in FAR 91.107
  • Every pilot is urged to receive a preflight briefing and to file a flight plan
    • This briefing should consist of the latest or most current weather, airport, and en route NAVAID information
    • Briefing service may be obtained from an FSS either by telephone, by radio when airborne, or by a personal visit to the station
    • Pilots with a current medical certificate in the 48 contiguous States may access Lockheed Martin Flight Services or the Direct User Access Terminal System (DUATS) via the internet
      • Lockheed Martin Flight Services and DUATS will provide preflight weather data and allow pilots to file domestic VFR or IFR flight plans
      • Pilots filing flight plans via "fast file" who desire to have their briefing recorded, should include a statement at the end of the recording as to the source of their weather briefing
  • The information required by the FAA to process flight plans is contained on FAA Form 7233−1, Flight Plan, or FAA Form 7233−4, International Flight Plan
    • The forms are available at all flight service stations
    • Additional copies will be provided on request
  • Consult an FSS, Lockheed Martin Flight Services, or DUATS for preflight weather briefing
    • Supplemental Weather Service Locations (SWSLs) do not provide weather briefings
  • FSSs are required to advise of pertinent NOTAMs if a standard briefing is requested, but if they are overlooked, don't hesitate to remind the specialist that you have not received NOTAM information
    • NOTAMs which are known in sufficient time for publication and are of 7 days duration or longer are normally incorporated into the Notices to Airmen Publication and carried there until cancellation time
    • FDC NOTAMs, which apply to instrument flight procedures, are also included in the Notices to Airmen Publication up to and including the number indicated in the FDC NOTAM legend
    • Printed NOTAMs are not provided during a briefing unless specifically requested by the pilot since the FSS specialist has no way of knowing whether the pilot has already checked the Notices to Airmen Publication prior to calling
    • Remember to ask for NOTAMs in the Notices to Airmen Publication
    • This information is not normally furnished during your briefing
  • Pilots are urged to use only the latest issue of aeronautical charts in planning and conducting flight operations
    • Aeronautical charts are revised and reissued on a regular scheduled basis to ensure that depicted data are current and reliable
    • In the conterminous U.S., Sectional Charts are updated every 6 months, IFR En Route Charts every 56 days, and amendments to civil IFR Approach Charts are accomplished on a 56−day cycle with a change notice volume issued on the 28−day mid-cycle
    • Charts that have been superseded by those of a more recent date may contain obsolete or incomplete flight information
  • When requesting a preflight briefing, identify yourself as a pilot and provide the following:

    1. Type of flight planned; e.g., VFR or IFR
    2. Aircraft's number or pilot's name
    3. Aircraft type
    4. Departure Airport
    5. Route of flight
    6. Destination
    7. Flight altitude(s)
    8. ETD and ETE
  • Prior to conducting a briefing, briefers are required to have the background information listed above so that they may tailor the briefing to the needs of the proposed flight
    • The objective is to communicate a "picture" of meteorological and aeronautical information necessary for the conduct of a safe and efficient flight
    • Briefers use all available weather and aeronautical information to summarize data applicable to the proposed flight
    • They do not read weather reports and forecasts verbatim unless specifically requested by the pilot
    • FSS briefers do not provide FDC NOTAM information for special instrument approach procedures unless specifically asked
    • Pilots authorized by the FAA to use special instrument approach procedures must specifically request FDC NOTAM information for these procedures
    • Pilots who receive the information electronically will receive NOTAMs for special IAPs automatically
  • FAA by 14 CFR Part 93, Subpart K, has designated High Density Traffic Airports (HDTAs) and has prescribed air traffic rules and requirements for operating aircraft (excluding helicopter operations) to and from these airport
    • Additional information can be found in the Special Notices of the Airport/Facility Directory
  • In addition to the filing of a flight plan, if the flight will traverse or land in one or more foreign countries, it is particularly important that pilots leave a complete itinerary with someone directly concerned and keep that person advised of the flight’s progress
    • If serious doubt arises as to the safety of the flight, that person should first contact the FSS
  • Pilots operating under provisions of 14 CFR Part 135 on a domestic flight and not having an FAA assigned 3−letter designator, are urged to prefix the normal registration (N) number with the letter "T" on flight plan filing; e.g., TN1234B
Airplane Flying Handbook, Aircraft Documents and AFM/POH
Figure 1: Airplane Flying Handbook, Aircraft Documents and AFM/POH

Preflight

Airplane Flying Handbook, Aircraft Documents and AFM/POH
Figure 2: Airplane Flying Handbook, Preflight Inspection
  • Must be performed in accordance with the airplane manufacturer checklist
  • The aircraft must be two things before it is ready to fly:
    • Legally airworthy, and;
    • In condition for safe flight

  • Determining Legal Airworthiness:
    • In order to be legally ready, the aircraft must comply with FAR 91.9/91.409 under the popular acronym, "ARROW"
    • Logbooks:
      • Should be inspected prior to operation
      • Required to be maintained but not on-board as the FAA/NTSB would not want those documents destroyed in a mishap
      • Contain:
        • Maintenance records for the airframe, engine, and propeller
        • Annual inspections within the preceding 12-calendar months (as per FAR 91.409)
        • 100-hour inspections, as required (as per FAR 91.409)
        • Emergency Locator Transmitter (ELT) with no more than 1 hour cumulative use or half battery life (as per FAR 91.207)
        • Airworthiness Directives completed in accordance with their intervals (as per FAR 91.409)
  • Determining Condition for Safe Flight: [Figure 2]
    • Approaching the aircraft:
      • Make note of anything unusual
      • Landing gear should be level
      • No cracks on the airframe
      • No leaking fluids
      • Foreign Object Debris (FOD) not present
      • Etc.
    • Inside the aircraft:
      • Check the door for ease of use, which could be a sign of misalignment/structural damage
      • Make sure the inside of the aircraft is not wet, especially if it has rained recently
      • Ensure the windshield is in good condition (no crazing) and clean
      • Ensure the seats and belts are in good working condition and secure
      • Check for 3 critical areas which will be listed on your checklist:
        1. Battery and Ignition Switches - OFF
        2. Control Column Locks - REMOVED
        3. Landing Gear Control - DOWN AND LOCKED (as applicable)
      • Engine controls should be manipulated to ensure full range of check for binding or stiffness
      • Instruments should be checked for fogging on the panel windows
      • Overall the aircraft must be equipped for VFR or IFR, depending on the purpose of flight
      • Turn on the battery switch and note fuel gauge quantities
    • Left Empennage:
      • First and foremost, make sure you're firm but light when touching the aircraft so as not to cause damage to the structure
      • Look for wrinkles in the skin or structure anomalies
      • Observe for loose or missing rivets
      • Black oxide will be apparently with loose or broken fasteners
      • Small dents may be present but excessive or large dents are unacceptable
      • If a crack is present you may find a stop drilled in (a hole drilled at the end of the crack) which is acceptable corrective action
      • Stains are a sign of fluid leakage
      • Depending on the aircraft you may have a cargo area check inside and door secure
    • Tail:
      • Same as the empennage with a few extras
      • Check control surface attachments and movement
      • Check trim tab movement
      • Check the lights for obvious damage
    • Right Empennage:
      • Same as left Empennage
    • Right Wing:
      • Inspect for the same things previously mentioned
      • Ailerons should move in opposing directions and you should see the yoke move
      • Lights and stall warnings should be inspected and clear of obstructions
      • Pitot Tubes should be checked for obstructions and bugs
    • Wing Root/Fuel Sump:
      • The cabin should be inspected from the other side for over all condition
      • Tires should be inspected for proper inflation, FOD, damage, showing chords
      • Brakes should be checked for corrosion, loose connections, fluid leakage and cracks
      • The fuel should be sumped and checked
        • The reading you saw on the gauges should be appropriate to what you see in the tanks
        • Grade/color should be appropriate and sediment or water should not be present
        • Incorrect fuel can result in engine failures, if you're lucky on the ground, if not, during takeoff and climb
        • Water will sink to the bottom
        • Take samples until all sediment or water that may be found is removed
    • Nose: [Figure 3]
      • Check engine oil levels and if you're flying the same aircraft often, for sudden drops in fuel usage
      • The cowling should be secure, all screws in place
        • Be sure to close and lock it after you're done
      • The propeller and spinner should be checked for damage
      • The drive belts should be checked for proper tension and signs of wear
      • Leaking fluids should be noted as well as FOD
      • All visible wires and lines should be checked fro security and condition
      • Strut should be properly compressed
      • Ensure the engine compartment is clear of FOD such as paper or birds nests
    • Fuel Sump:
      • Same as other side
    • Left Wing:
      • Same as other side
  • Prior to aircraft takeoff, an inspection shall be made to ensure that no loose articles, such as rags, waste, tools, etc., are present that might foul the controls
  • Articles shall be properly stowed to prevent their coming adrift and being lost overboard or damaging the aircraft during maneuvers
  • Care shall be taken to ensure proper load-balance distribution of all weights

Airplane Flying Handbook, Check the Propeller and Inside the Cowling
Figure 3: Airplane Flying Handbook, Check the Propeller and Inside the Cowling

Night Preflight:

  • Night flying requires that pilots be aware of, and operate within, their abilities and limitations
    • This means more attention to the details of preflight preparation and planning
  • Preparation for a night flight should include a thorough review of the available weather reports and forecasts with particular attention given to temperature/dew point spread
    • A narrow temperature/dew point spread may indicate the possibility of fog or clouds
  • Emphasis should also be placed on wind direction and speed, since its effect on the airplane cannot be as easily detected at night as during the day
  • On night cross-country flights, appropriate aeronautical charts should be selected, including the appropriate adjacent charts
    • Course lines should be drawn in black to be more distinguishable
    • Prominently lighted checkpoints along the prepared course should be noted
    • Rotating beacons at airports, lighted obstructions, lights of cities or towns, and lights from major highway traffic all provide excellent visual checkpoints
  • The use of radio navigation aids and communication facilities add significantly to the safety and efficiency of night flying
  • All personal equipment should be checked prior to flight to ensure proper functioning
  • All airplane lights should be turned ON momentarily and checked for operation
    • Emphasis on momentarily when turning on lights such as taxi/landing light and the strobe so as not to blind other pilots
  • Position lights can be checked for loose connections by tapping the light fixture
    • If the lights blink while being tapped, further investigation to determine the cause should be made prior to flight
  • The parking ramp should be examined prior to entering the airplane
  • During the day, it is quite easy to see stepladders, chuckholes, wheel chocks, and other obstructions, but at night it is more difficult

Reclining Seats:

  • Personnel embarked in aircraft equipped with seats that have a reclining back shall be instructed to lock the seat in the erect position for all takeoffs, landings, and emergencies
  • Reclining seats that will not lock in the erect position shall not be used for passenger transport

Preflight Actions:

  • Each pilot in command shall, before beginning a flight, become familiar with all available information concerning that flight. This information must include:
    • For a flight under IFR or a flight not in the vicinity of an airport, weather reports and forecasts, fuel requirements, alternatives available if the planned flight cannot be completed, and any known traffic delays of which the pilot in command has been advised by ATC;
    • For any flight, runway lengths at airports of intended use, and the following takeoff and landing distance information:
      • For civil aircraft for which an approved Airplane or Rotorcraft Flight Manual containing takeoff and landing distance data is required, the takeoff and landing distance data contained therein; and
      • For civil aircraft other than those specified in paragraph (b)(1) of this section, other reliable information appropriate to the aircraft, relating to aircraft performance under expected values of airport elevation and runway slope, aircraft gross weight, and wind and temperature
  • These actions can be remembered using the acronym "WX-KRAFTN"
    • WX: Weather
    • K: Known ATC Delays
    • R: Runway Lengths of intended use
    • A: Alternatives if the flight cannot be completed as planned
    • F: Fuel requirements
    • T: Takeoff and landing distances
    • N: NOTAMS

Conclusion:

  • Consider checking the NTSB, by airport, for each new destination

References: