From the time I first stepped in an airplane to train as a pilot in 2001 it has been imbedded in my head Check List, Check List, Check list! I remember my instructor telling me “I don’t want to see you doing your preflight without that check list in your hand”. I developed a very good habit way back then to keep it with me. It seems however that lately I have been reminded a lot about the importance of following procedures.
In the July 2010 issue on Flying magazine Tom Benenson wrote an article titled “Airwork”. In the story Tom had made a fuel stop in South Dakota on a very dark and rainy night. He quoted “I am religious about getting out my little ladder and climbing up to look in the tanks”. On this night however he almost didn’t get out his ladder. He finally made a decision to visually check the tanks finding the left tank full but the lineman had not put any fuel in the right tank. He would not have made his destination.
It has been just over a year now sense the February 12, 2009 crash of the Colgan air flight 3407 that claimed 50 lives. The NTSB investigations are complete and the final report has been logged as “Pilot Error”. As the investigation unfolded it revealed several areas of inadequacy not only among the captain and first offer but also with Colgan air. Captain Marvin Renslow had a record of below and even failing averages in his training. Flight recorders revealed that Captain Renslow had attempted to counter act the Shaker and pusher system when it engaged. It wasn’t until after the accident that Colgan Air added the Shaker and pusher activation in the training curriculum for the DHC-8-400.
The pre-flight procedures for your aircraft is part of the decision making process that determines whether fly or not.
The first preflight procedure before even opening the hanger door is to check the weather. With today’s internet and satellite access there are many choices to receive accurate current weather conditions.
Next is the aircraft walk around. Your aircrafts Pilot operating handbook (POH) will have the manufactures recommended preflight procedures. Be cautious to never become too familiar or slothful with this procedure. Anyone can remember to check the oil level and security of the fuel caps but look over a damaged aileron connecting rod and that means trouble.
There is also the run-up. In this procedure you will check the engine, flight controls and gauges. This test will as well have written procedure recommended by the aircraft manufacture. Use the list and follow it.
There is an old saying that takeoff is optional but landing is mandatory. Our goal is to land when WE want to not when we have to.