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Tips from the CFI Desk

Tips from the CFI Desk

By Justin Parnell


Pre-Flighting: It’s not just about the airplane anymore.

My students sometimes ask me “what should I do before a flight?” Like many of you, my mind immediately focuses on the regulations and rules. Yes, I am a CFI, who has completed CFI academy, and yes, the FARs are next to my bed. The rules are very specific based on the type of flight we are going to engage in and the items that we need to brief ourselves on for that flight. You can review these rules in CFR 91.103. Many people show up for their training flight and never think about the preparation (Personal Pre-Flight) that they should accomplish before arriving at the airport. We always consider the rules, but let’s think outside of the box!

Here are my Top 5 “Personal” Pre-flight actions before every training flight in CFI academy:

1) Take charge of your weather briefing
Weather is one of those topics we love to admire but, at the end of the day, we throw our hands up and say “wow this is too complicated.” My response is DIVE IN HEAD FIRST! Start the day out with your TV; use your local weather stations as an aide to understanding the day’s weather. Remember, TV weather reporters need to speak to the masses and usually make the weather easy to understand. Once you have the big picture, begin to explore your own weather sites.

American Flyers offers a full range of free weather services on Channel 66. Begin by browsing the charts, radar and satellite images. When you have a question, write it down so you can review it with your instructor.

Once you have satisfied your visual senses click on the “Aviation Digital Data Wx” link which will take you to Now we’re talking text (it is OK to admit that you think it’ s cool especially when non-pilots see the reports). Print out the reports and review them and then call  your local FSS station. As they brief you, try to follow along on the weather report that you just printed out. This exercise will strengthen your knowledge and understanding of the weather, as well as improve your decoding skills when it comes to the METAR, TAF and Winds aloft reports.

2) Review your training lesson

You always want to try and stay ahead of the game and study simple things in CFI academy, like procedures, the night before your flight. Airplanes are sophisticated machines and that’ s what we love about them. With sophistication comes procedures and with procedures comes the need for preparation. We have enough going on in our daily lives that take up the majority of our brain-power and now we are going to add the slow flight! Make flashcards or notes outlining

procedures that you’re  going to practice that day. Review them in your mind and if you have time, try “chair flying” them to visualize what you are going to be doing and when.

3) Bring questions to your instructor

We love questions! You actually help us do our jobs better when you ask questions. I will let you in on a CFI academy secret. We think we know it all (Remember my FARs are next to my bed!). All kidding aside, questions let me know where your strengths are and where your weaknesses lie. We focus on these questions and quickly adopt the training lesson to ensure that you get the most out of your session.

4) EAT and Drink

Some people won ‘t eat or drink anything before a flight because they think that it will make them feel uncomfortable. The truth is that most students feel uncomfortable in airplanes for

a number of factors, hunger is one of them. Please eat a proper, well-balanced meal before your flight. Your body will thank you, your mind will be sharper and you will have an enjoyable experience. We as instructors fly in these airplanes all day; we notice what hunger can do to both ourselves and our students. Think about the duration of the flight. Two hours is not that long while sitting at your office desk in the AC, but two hours at altitude can really dehydrate you quickly. Pack a small snack, my snack of choice carrots, along with some water. A quick swig and a couple of carrots can go a long way to staving off dehydration and any effect hunger can have on you and your brain.

5) Get there Early

Your CFI academy instructor understands that life happens and sometimes you are late. The problem with being late is everything gets rushed. Including your pre-flight! And, that is where

we miss learning opportunities. From the time you wake up in the morning, your flight should be on your mind. Take a moment and think about the weather, slow flight, what the heck is Coriolis force? And last but not least eat a snack. Leave your office or house a little earlier so you don’t have to rush to the airport. My bet is that your instructor is already there waiting for you, ready to go!

Remember it is not just the plane that needs a preflight, it’s you as well!