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COCKPIT CHECK PRIOR TO FLIGHT
A systematic and careful cockpit check should also be carried out prior to flight.
1. Do a complete runup of the engine.
During the runup of the engine and especially when checking the engine for correct and normal operation, if there is any indication that the engine(s) is malfunctioning, under no circumstances should you attempt to take off. There is only one course of action in such a circumstance and that is to return to the ramp and conduct a thorough investigation as to the possible cause of the malfunction. The trouble may be serious, such as wrong fuel in the tanks or air leaks in the fuel line plumbing. If you attempt to take off knowing that the engine(s) is not operating smoothly, you are inviting disaster. Power failure is very likely to occur at the most critical phase of the take-off or during the initial climb.
2. Check all instruments systematically (usually from left to right) and adjust each as they are checked if adjustment is necessary. For example: Set the altimeter setting on the altimeter and check that the height indicated is the elevation of the airport (plus or minus 50 to 75 feet). If the altimeter setting is not known, set the airport elevation under the indicator needle. Wind the clock and set the correct time and so forth.
3. Check hydraulics to assure the proper pressure reading on the gauge.
4. Set trim tabs of both elevator and rudder to take-off position according to the particular load and C.G. of the airplane.
5. Mixture - Full rich (unless high elevation of the airport requires slight leaning)
6. Carburetor heat - COLD (unless atmospheric conditions necessitate heat).
7. Pitch - Propeller in full fine for take-off.
8. Fuel - Check the fuel gauge(s) for the proper quantity of fuel in each tank, and adjust fuel selector to the proper tank for take-off. Adjust cross feed and booster pumps. Primer locked. Be sure that you have enough fuel for the flight you are planning plus a reserve sufficient for forty-five minutes at normal cruising speed. Forty-five minutes reserve fuel is required by air regulations.
9. Flaps - Adjust to take-off position
10. Switches - Magneto ON. Generator ON. Anti-collision beacon ON. Pilot heat, navigation lights, etc., as required.
11. Gyros - Adjust the heading indicator to the runway heading. Adjust the altitude indicator if necessary. Allow 5 minutes after engine start for gyros of vacuum operated instruments to reach normal operating speed. Allow 3 minutes if the gyros are electrically driven. If the gyro instruments are venturi driven, only after the airplane is well established in flight will the instruments give reliable indications.
12. Gills - Adjust cowl gills to take-off position.
13. Arm the ELT if you have not already done so. Listen on 121.5 MHz to make sure that the ELT is not transmitting.
14. Safety belts of all passengers and crew fastened. No smoking.
15. Parking brake off. Tail wheel lock adjusted. Water rudders up (seaplanes).
16. Doors or windows or canopy top - Closed and secure.
17. Check freedom of all controls - ailerons, elevators arid rudders. While moving the control column and rudder pedals, check that the control surfaces are responding in the proper direction of travel. This check is especially important if the airplane has undergone maintenance during which the control connections have been adjusted or removed arid reinstalled. It is not unheard of for the controls to be reinstalled in reverse.
The cockpit check should be made deliberately without haste from a written check list. A definite sequence should be followed, moving clockwise around the cockpit. Touch each control with your hand and name it aloud. For example: "Trim Tabs - Flaps - Fine Pitch", etc. With larger and more sophisticated types of airplane, the cockpit check becomes more and more involved. On some large transport aircraft, the cockpit check requires several typewritten pages to list. Always work from a written, not a memorized, checklist no matter how small your airplane. Remember, you may be interrupted while doing your chores by a radio call, forget where you left off, and overlook some vitally important procedure.
There are many check lists relating to the various phases in the operation of an airplane. There are checklists for preflight, before starting engines, engine starts, before taxiing, engine runup, before take-off, take-off and climb, cruise, descent, before landing, aborted landing, after landing and after shut down, as well as checklists relating to emergency situations. Small, single engine airplanes may use only a portion of these. Larger, multi-engine airplanes may use them all. Whatever checklists are prepared for your airplane, make a habit of always using them during the phases of operation to which they apply.
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Updated: May 03, 2008