On Final: The Art Of The Preflight

On Final: The Art Of The Preflight

Preflighting your airplane is a pretty routine event, but it can be handled in many different ways. Back in my Falcon 10 days, I was based at a Fortune 500 flight department. They had a team of mechanics that accomplished the preflight duties and actually “released” the airplane on a written form. That did not relieve me of the ultimate responsibility as PIC, but it was great to have an extra set of eyes to look for things gone awry. For the vast majority of us, however, we are all alone on the ramp.
Weather conditions can alter our routine. I like to do most of the items in the hangar the day before departure. Things like systems checks, oil levels, etc. This allows me to take some extra time that might be compromised with early arriving passengers or inclement weather at departure time.
Darkness, and a two person crew, can add an element of surprise. Like rolling down the runway at Addison (KADS) one very early morning years ago, only to realize that both pitot static covers were still firmly covering their masts. “I thought you got those?” we both said to each other after an aborted takeoff at about 80 knots.
If your airplane was towed from the last place you parked, it may have experienced a “bump in the night” that never got reported. And as for fueling, it is good practice to oversee that task in person. I can’t say that I have always followed that policy. And for you piston drivers, disastrous results have occurred on more than one occasion when jet fuel was accidently dispensed to a “turbine looking” airframe.
The most important preflight is the one right after any maintenance. Did the guys change any cockpit switches? Important ones, like the hydraulic pump circuit breaker? How about the oil filler caps?
My favorite story, of course, involves Stuart Fred and his beautiful CJ4. Stuart is a meticulous pilot. On second thought, he is downright anal. Prior to every leg, he runs every systems check, conducts a complete walk around, and loads his flight plans while on a power cart. He does it the same way every time. Many times he flies alone and departs early in the morning from hot, humid, Houston, Texas. Often, he is completely soaked in perspiration after the extensive inspection and he then jumps into the shower right before departure.
So, picture Stuart on a very warm, dark morning as he prepared the CJ4 for our trip this summer to EAA and Oshkosh. I was along for the trip, as were some VIP passengers, including three men and two ladies. Stuart was up at 0530 doing his usual preflight. Everything was perfect as I opened the hangar door to let the passengers in.
Did I mention it was dark?
The ladies and gentlemen gathered with their bags in hand while Stuart finished his work. Completely satisfied with his preflight, Stuart entered the hangar holding his towel, a bar of soap, and his hair brush.
“I will jump in the shower, and we will be ready to go,” he said in his professional pilot voice.
As he walked by, I heard the shocked wife of one passenger comment to her husband, “Honey, I don’t think he has any pants on.”
Stuart was standing in his underwear.
The best preflight is the one we do the same way.
EVERY TIME.
Fly safe.

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