Pre-Flight Planning and Checklist Usage

posted in: Flight Blog | 1

Hello everyone and welcome back to our aviation blog, today I want to talk about preflight planning and inspection. Pilots love to fly, and that being said we love to get into the air as fast a possible. But as my mom used to always tell me: “good things come to those who wait”. For pilots, that can save your life. Proper planning for the flight is extremely important to ensure a safe and enjoyable experience, and when it comes to detail, theres no such thing as a detail too small. I personally start where most pilots start there preflight, the weather. I check everything weather related I can. This includes radar, satellite, METARs, TAFs, Area Forcast, Outlook Charts, Prognostic Charts and more. Thats a plethora of information to look over, however it sets my mind at ease to have the “big picture” of whats going on around me. Next I move into my route. I check obstacle heights, traffic delays, TFRs, distances, fuel required, prefered routes when entering congested airspace like Chicago and the airport demographics where I intend to land. For those of you who are pilots this sounds familure because it’s required by regulations to have all that information before embarking on a cross country flight.. I then head out to the airplane and do a thorough preflight, checking everything inside and outside of the aircraft. Unfortunately there are pilots out there who: “kick the tires and light the fires”. This causes preventable accidents and preventable deaths. Some accidents come straight to mind for me, all of which were caused by inproper pre-flight, as well as not running the before takeoff checklist. The accident in the video below was caused by a control lock or gust lock left locked for flight. This is very bad. Just about every aircraft is equipped with some kind of locking system for the controls. Sounds bad right? Well, when the aircraft is on the ground the controls will move in the wind. Take a Cessna 172 for instance, the controls are all mechanical and they are light weight and easy to move. If you leave them unlocked on the ground on a windy day, the wind can violently move them from stop to stop and damage them. Cessna designs there control lock with a huge metal flag that blocks either the masters switch and engine primer on older models, or blocks the ignition switch on newer models in an attempt to prevent the pilot from starting the engine with the controls locked. Control lock removed is then placed on the before start checklist, however if that all fails, further in the checklist there will be at least one control check on the checklist before takeoff. The control check has you move all the controls through there full range of motion to make sure they move freely and also correctly. With all these safeguards in place, it’s hard to believe it still happens. I approach every flight with caution and I use my P model. Prior Proper Planning Prevents Poor Performance or ┬áPlan, Plane, Pilot, Passengers, Programming. Granted the latter is more so for single pilot resource management, a pilot can apply it to his or her preflight. Below is a picture of a Gulfstream that attempted takeoff with the gust lock control lock on. The pilots realized they had a problem after it was too late to stop and all seven people aboard the jet were killed. The investigation later concluded that the pilots didn’t run there checklist or check the controls for free movement before takeoff. The gust lock on the aircraft is designed to lock the throttle on the jet as well to prevent the pilot from advancing the throttles to takeoff power. A mechanical failure allowed the pilots to advance the throttles to takeoff power and the rest is history.

Image result for gulfstream gust lock crash


Next is a video of a Caribou that actually made it into the air with it’s controls locked but the resulting crash was fatal for all on board. The problem was again, imporper usage of the checklist. A simple control movement check before takeoff would have saved the plane and pilots.

These accidents involving locked controls aren’t too common but accidents caused by imporper planning are all too common. Remember when your out there to check and recheck everything. The old saying is very wise and very true: “I would rather be on the ground wishing I was in the air than in the air wishing I was on the ground”.

Well friends thats all for now. Fly safe and blue skies everyone, i’ll catch you in the air somewhere.


If there is a topic you would like me to cover or if you have feedback for me feel free to email me at the address below. I would love to hear from you.

Michael Cornelius

Flight operations manager/pilot at Winterset Aviation Services Inc


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