By Chris Webb
Here are a few of the questions I get in and out of airline academy. What does it mean to ‘preflight an aircraft?’ When should it be done and who should do it? It is very easy to just follow the checklist. After all, that is what the manufacturer suggests as the minimum requirements for the preflight. Is that all we need to do? Does the preflight just consist of the aircraft?
The preflight begins before the pilot even leaves the house. Too many times I have found pilots trying to figure out how to load bags and suitcases onto their planes with wives, husbands, children and friends standing right behind them. Ever wonder why airlines request us to show up an hour early? That same mind set can be used with General Aviation. Have your passengers turn in their luggage to you early. This way YOU can weigh the luggage and figure out where you want to place it even before you reach the plane. The dimensions of the aircraft are in the Pilots Operating Handbook. By calculating the weight and balance early you can also give the fuel truck a call to confirm how much fuel you need. Again, you should do this before you get to the plane. This way, when the passengers arrive, you can focus on passenger safety and comfort.
I have heard of services where preflight operations are performed for the pilot. I find those very useful because low oil, fuel, tire pressure, struts and cleaning the windshield can be fixed well in advance. However, I do highly encourage all the pilots to perform the actual walk around personally. Even if that means re-checking the oil, fuel and tire pressures; do it! Remember, you are going to be the one flying. Not the refueler, tug driver, or anybody else. If you preflight and then head back into the FBO, or to the car, perform a walk around before flying. You never know what happens to your plane if you are not watching it.
A preflight means that you and your airplane are ready for that flight. It also means that you are prepared for those little surprises that may pop up. You are satisfied with the fluid levels and there isn’t anything that you have found that would keep the plane from taking flight. Now you can focus on the flight.