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Pre-flight checks

 Pre-flight checks

  • Again, unlike a car, we cannot just throw our cases into the back and hope for the best. The basic aircraft is carefully weighed so that the weight and position of the center of gravity are both known. We have to worry about the moveable weights and do weight and balance calculations for the loads we are carrying on this flight.
  •  Every aircraft has a flight manual and it is this that will tell us if our loading is within safe limits for the aircraft. We are not going far – we will be in uncontrolled airspace and visibility and forecast are good, so we will not need to file a flight plan.
  •  It is still a good idea to plan what we intend to do, though. Runway in current use is 22L (the 22 means the heading is about 2200 on the DI), so we will take off southwest towards the city, turn left towards the east before we get to the built-up area and try some turns, stalls, and a few other maneuvers. We will then rejoin the circuit and land – a total flight time of perhaps 50 minutes.
  • Now for our detailed pre-flight checks. We first inspect the paperwork to make sure our particular aircraft has up-to-date service records, insurance, etc. Taking our checklist, we then go to the aircraft. First we switch off the radios and then switch on the master switch and the switches for all the systems we are going to test – the flashing anti-collision beacon, the navigation lights, the landing lights, and the pitot heater.
  • We walk around the aircraft, checking that all these systems are working, then we return to the cockpit and test the flaps before switching everything off again. Now we walk slowly around the aircraft, checking such things as the condition of the tires and brakes, the condition of the surfaces, the control hinges, etc. We also make sure that, when we waggle the controls, the main yoke moves in the correct direction – misrigging has been known! As we come to the leading edge of the starboard wing we notice a small hole.
  •  This is the stall warning device. As an aerofoil approaches the stall the suction at the leading edge gets stronger. The stall warning device sounds a buzzer in the cockpit when the aerofoil is dangerously close to the stall.
  • We test that this is working by sucking gently at the hole. Now we are at the nose we check the engine oil level and the condition of the propeller. We must also check the fuel. First, we take samples to make sure it has not been contaminated by water and then we clamber on to a step on the strut of each wing, in turn, to dip the tank and make sure we have enough fuel for the flight – the electrical gauges may fail and there are no filling stations at 3000 ft. Clearly, the last pilot filled it up before he parked it, so we do not have to worry about a trip to the pumps.

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