AOG's Pilot Tip for March PDF Print E-mail
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Friday, 11 March 2011 13:29


How would a true airman approach the preflight, and what tips would you give us for making sure that our preflight is as professional as it can be? – Bob Martens


Well, two things can happen on a preflight. You can be distracted and miss items. Or, you can miss items, because you're under pressure to get going, because it's getting dark or the weather's going bad or your passengers are giving you a hard time about getting going.

So, the first thing you need to remember is to always use your checklist. That'll help eliminate the distracted items. You can't make up time on a preflight. You need to take the time it takes. Let me give you an example, Bob, of how a checklist saved me from a very serious mistake one day.

Many years ago, I owned a Cessna 195, and at that time, I was based at a little airport in the mountains of California; it was a little short airport with nothing but rocks and trees on both ends of the runways. Certainly, there was no chance for a safe landing if you had an engine problem right after takeoff.

I arrived early one day, just to exercise the airplane, go for a little scenic flight, and practice my landings. That aircraft had the three standard fuel drains, two fuel tanks and a fuel sump. During my preflight, I drained the right wing sump. I drained the fuel sump at the engine. But, I forgot to drain the left wing tank. Now, I'd owned this airplane for several years, and I had never gotten one drop of water out of that airplane. I drained it religiously, and I never had a problem.

I got in the airplane, fastened my seatbelt, and then I pulled out my checklist, my preflight checklist, that is. A little bit late, but at least I pulled it out. I went through it, and I realized that I'd forgotten to drain the left tank. By now, I'm in the airplane, the doors closed, and the seatbelt's on. I've never gotten any water before. Why should I go through the trouble of doing this? But, fortunately, I decided, β€œHey, I'm in no hurry. Why not just follow good discipline and good practice and do it?”

I got out of the airplane. I got my fuel drainer. I drained a cupful of fuel. I looked at it and discovered it was all water. I drained another cupful, all water. By now, I was getting goose bumps. I drained 17 cups of water out of that tank.

That engine probably would have run just about long enough to get me out over those trees and rocks. And then it would have begun to swallow that water, and I would have been a statistic in the NTSB files.

I think there're two factors that saved me from that accident, Bob. And, of course, discipline is the bottom line. But, factor number one: I did use a checklist. Even though I didn't use it perhaps quite as I should have, I did use the checklist. That reminded me that I'd made the mistake.

Secondly, I wasn't under any time pressure, fortunately, that day. So, that made it easy for me to do the right thing. I think not using the checklist or being in a big hurry trying to make up time, I might have done that differently. And, it might not have turned out so nice. – Wally Moran

Wally Moran is a retired airline captain and spent much of his career as a training instructor and check airman on aircraft, including the Boeing 747 and 767. He has held a flight instructor certificate for more than 47 years. Wally is a designated pilot examiner for single- and multi-engine aircraft and gliders. He is authorized to issue certificates all the way up to ATP and has given over 3,400 hours of flight instruction in single-engine, multi-engine, tailwheel, gliders, seaplanes, and instruments.

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Last Updated ( Friday, 11 March 2011 13:35 )