Condition for Safe Flight
To be in a condition for safe flight, all required and installed equipment must be in good working condition. Any repairs and modifications must be correctly documented. Your aircraft needs an FAA Form 337 any time it has undergone a major repair or major alteration, as any changes to type design require approval through a supplemental type certificate (STC) that documents the FAA’s approval of a product (aircraft, engine, or propeller) modification.
Additionally, your aircraft must meet the requirements of certain inspection cycles. You should be able to find aircraft maintenance log entries for completion of the annual or (if applicable) 100-hour inspection, which includes verification of any applicable airworthiness directives and any required equipment checks, for example, the VOR and altimeter/pilot-static system, the transponder, and the emergency locator transmitter (ELT) battery strength.
After maintenance, check systems thoroughly, or ask qualified maintenance personnel to help re-inspect the aircraft to ensure all systems are a go.
Step Two — Is it My Type? Know your experience level flying that particular aircraft type, and know your aircraft’s performance abilities and limitations.
Step Three — Gas in the Tank? Know your fuel reserves. For more detail, see “Fuel Gauge Systems” in this issue of FAA Safety Briefing.
Step Four — Checklist Checked? Preflight checklists are your friends — use them! It is important for you, as a safety-minded pilot, to make use of a physical preflight checklist. Never work from memory. In this way, you can ensure that you do not skip or misevaluate the items you are checking. Always exit the aircraft and move around it methodically, avoiding interruptions and distractions during your external inspection.
Go one step beyond the official checklist items and develop an additional items checklist to be used in conjunction with the aircraft’s preflight checklist. Take a look at the FAA Safety Team’s (FAASTeam) Advanced Preflight pamphlet for guidance on developing an additional items checklist to add to your preflight arsenal. It’s available on their website at http://go.usa.gov/x8CkF.
Bring Your “A” Game
Another way to check your “A”ircraft, and to proactively assess risk for a given flight, is with a Flight Risk Assessment Tool (FRAT). A FRAT helps pilots make better go/no-go decisions by asking a series of questions that generally follow the PAVE checklist. There are an abundance of FRAT options to choose from, they are simple to use and many are available as apps on your smartphone or tablet. Check out “Assessing Risk in the Palm of Your Hand” in this issue’s Angle of Attack department for more details.
With safety in mind, following proper preflight procedures plays a critical role to ensure the airworthiness of your aircraft prior to takeoff. The steps you take before your aircraft leaves the ground will pay huge dividends towards your piece of mind while in the air.
And that weird knocking sound we heard earlier? Well, that was just your aircraft reminding you to do a thorough preflight check. Fly safe!
Jennifer Caron is an assistant editor for FAA Safety Briefing. She is a certified technical writer-editor, and is currently pursuing a Sport Pilot Certificate.
This article was originally published in the January/February 2017 issue of FAA Safety Briefing magazine.