By Howard Deevers


The opinions express here are the authors only, and may not reflect those of APA, or any other aviation organization.

On our very first flying lesson, we were taught to do a “Pre Flight Inspection.” Or, at least we should have been taught that. I don't remember anything resembling a Pre-Flight on my first three flying lessons. Is it because I just don't remember, or did they actually NOT do a Pre Flight? A discussion for another time.

checking the oil and kicking the tires 1

After a few lessons at that location, I decided to learn to fly elsewhere. I had talked to an instructor on the phone, and we agreed to meet at Allegheny County Airport (AGC), just south of downtown Pittsburgh. This instructor did talk about flying, airplanes, flying clubs, and a lot more. This will be my instructor. I stuck with him (or should I say he stuck with me) through all training and my Private Pilot check ride. I learned a lot from him too. Some things I had to “un-learn” later on when I found that there was a better way. It was a learning experience. Flying still is a learning experience 44 years later! As a CFI for the last 28 years, I think I learn more from my students than they do from me.

On the first lesson, we teach how to do a Pre Flight Inspection, and use the Checklist. That seems to stick with some students, but others invent their own way later on. Some of my friends are so diligent with the checklist that they follow every item, every time, even many years after getting ratings. Never change anything. (I'm not saying that is a bad thing, just that some things can be improved or updated).

checking the oil and kicking the tires 2

Here is an example: Doing a complete check of every item on the check list. The Run-Up requires that an operational check of the flight controls be done before takeoff. I 100% support doing an operational check of the flight controls before any take off! But what I encourage is that an operational check of the flight controls be done before taxi. You can do another one in the run-up area if you want to, but if you do one before you taxi, and discover a problem, or a control lock that wasn't removed, you are still in a position to do something about it conveniently. If you are in the run-up area, and discover the rudder lock still in place, it is embarrassing to shut down the engine, get out and remove or inspect something that you should have noticed much sooner, and then maybe need to taxi back through the waiting crowd. Is it possible that the “operational check of flight controls” is in the wrong place on the checklist? Or do we need to do 2 checks? Two checks would never hurt anything.

Back to checking the oil. I never check the oil in my car before each time I drive. Do you? Probably not, but there is a little warning on my panel to change oil if I have not done so at some interval. I don't have that in my plane. Every airplane is different and will use oil at different rates. Air cooled engines are just that way. Do you know how much oil is enough oil in the engine? Sure, there is a mark on the dip stick. Is it possible to have too much oil in that engine? No one ever talks much about that. But as I understand it, the excess oil just blows out, and leaves a mess on the belly of your plane. When I do check the oil in my car, I notice that is looks different than the oil in my plane. The plane oil gets darker in color with hours on the engine. Most of us change the oil in our airplanes every 25 to 50 hours of use. If I did that in my car, I would be doing oil changes every week! But oil is so important to the health of your aircraft engine (and car engine too) that paying attention and changing oil frequently will give you extended life to that engine.

checking the oil and kicking the tires 3

What about fuel? We all know that the color of the fuel has meaning for airplanes. With the debate on un-leaded fuel going on right now, we don't know what our fuel will look like in the future. We do know that we can't fly without it, at least not for long. No one wants to run out of fuel in flight, but there is a fuel related incident somewhere in the U. S. about once a week. In some of those incidents there was fuel on board, but just could not be delivered to the engine for some reason.

Over the years I have seen many different kinds of checklists. Some are loose leaf binders, and the pages are falling out. Others are plastic laminated professional checklists with the aircraft N number and serial number printed on it. Still others are homemade, typed, and in plastic pages like a photo album. The POH has a checklist and that might be tired and worn out too. The check list might be in the back pocket of one of the seats, or in a side pocket in the plane, if it has a side pocket. Some are tucked away above the sun visor, and I have found them on the floor of the plane, under the seat. There is no rule or regulation on how a checklist must look or where it is to be located in the plane. Just find it and use it. Taking off with a control lock still in place because you did not use a checklist is usually a fatal mistake. Use some kind of checklist every time! It could save your life.

If you want to know more about check lists, or many other safety related items, come to a WINGS Safety Seminar sponsored by your ARIZONA PILOTS ASSOCIATION. They are free and you will find them at locations all over the State. Check the website for locations and times, and, don't forget to “Bring your wingman!”

Please login to add a comment.