CFR §61.127 (b) (i) and (ii) Flight proficiency. Preflight
Commercial applicants are required to log ground or flight training in 11 areas. Two of them involve procedures prior to beginning the flight.
(b) Areas of operation.
(1) For an airplane category rating with a single-engine class rating:
(i) Preflight preparation;
(ii) Preflight procedures;
From the Pilots Handbook of Aeronautical Knowledge Chapter 2:
Preflight your passengers by preparing them for the possibility of delay and diversion, and involve them in your evaluation process.
From your private pilot training you are probably familiar with two pneumonics.
1. Illness—Am I sick? Illness is an obvious pilot risk.
2. Medication—Am I taking any medicines that might affect my judgment or make me drowsy?
3. Stress—Stress causes concentration and performance problems. While the regulations list medical conditions that require grounding, stress is not among them.
4. Alcohol—Have I been drinking within 8 hours? Within 24 hours?
5. Fatigue—Am I tired and not adequately rested? Fatigue continues to be one of the most insidious hazards to flight safety, as it may not be apparent to a pilot until serious errors are made.
6. Emotions-A pilot who experiences an emotionally upsetting event should refrain from flying until the pilot has satisfactorily recovered.
The PAVE Checklist
Pilot in command (PIC), Aircraft, enVironment, and External pressures
Fortunately Chapter 2 of the Airplane Flying Handbook tells you exactly what is required by the aircraft part of PAVE. So all you have to do is go over it with your CFI and log the ground time.
Preflight Assessment of the Aircraft
The owner/operator is primarily responsible for maintenance, but the pilot is (solely) responsible for determining the airworthiness (and/or safety) of the airplane for flight.
• Annual inspection within the preceding 12-calendar months (Title 14 of the Code of Federal Regulations (14 CFR) part 91, section 91.409(a))
• 100-hour inspection, if the aircraft is operated for hire (14 CFR part 91, section 91.409(b))
• Transponder certification within the preceding 24-calendar months (14 CFR part 91, section 91.413)
• Static system and encoder certification, within the preceding 24-calendar months, required for instrument flight rules (IFR) flight in controlled airspace (14 CFR part 91, section 91.411)
• 30-day VHF omnidirectional range (VOR) equipment check required for IFR flight (14 CFR part 91, section 91.171)
• Emergency locator transmitter (ELT) inspection within the last 12 months (14 CFR part 91, section 91.207(d))
• ELT battery due (14 CFR part 91, section 91.207(c))
• Current status of life limited parts per Type Certificate Data Sheets (TCDS) (14 CFR part 91, section 91.417)
• Status, compliance, logbook entries for airworthiness directives (ADs) (14 CFR part 91, section 91.417(a) (2)(v))
• Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Form 337, Major Repair or Alteration (14 CFR part 91, section 91.417)
• Inoperative equipment (14 CFR part 91, section 91.213)
A couple of things to note. Your ELT inspection is done at each annual, but the battery replacement time can get out of sync with the annual. There aren’t many life-limited parts on GA aircraft—that’s something you get into with turbines and jets. There are some hoses that are limited to 7 years but they should be caught at annual. Some ADs require replacement of parts, e.g. air filters, but again they are caught at annual and are not what is normally referred to as life-limited parts. Part 43 has the definition.
If your aircraft is not used for hire, then you don’t need a 100-hour inspection, but there are lots of 100-hour ADs out there, so be sure to check them.
CFR §43.10 Disposition of life-limited aircraft parts.
(a) Definitions used in this section. For the purposes of this section the following definitions apply.
Life-limited part means any part for which a mandatory replacement limit is specified in the type design, the Instructions for Continued Airworthiness, or the maintenance manual.
Life status means the accumulated cycles, hours, or any other mandatory replacement limit of a life-limited part.
Once you have gone over the books, it is time to look at the required documents. These are the familiar ARROW documents and two more that should be there.
It must be determined by the pilot that the following documents are, as appropriate, on board, attached, or affixed to the airplane:
• Original Airworthiness Certificate (14 CFR part 91, section 91.203)
• Original Registration Certificate (14 CFR part 91, section 91.203)
• Radio station license for flights outside the United States or airplanes greater than 12,500 pounds (Federal Communications Commission (FCC) rule)
• Operating limitations, which may be in the form of an FAA-approved AFM/POH, placards, instrument markings, or any combination thereof (14 CFR part 91, section 91.9)
• Official weight and balance
• Compass deviation card (14 CFR part 23, section 23.1547)
• External data plate (14 CFR part 45, section 45.11)
The Pre-Flight Procedures is just your standard pre-flight that you have been doing since your first flight. Most POHs or AFMs have a detailed checklist and many pilots make their own. I have a flow that I use every time and then check the major items before I get into the plane.
P – Prop Did I check for nicks and leaks?
C – Clean Windows?
C – Cowl Is it closed, Oil & Oil Filler cap?
F – Fuel: Water and levels?
A – Pitot-static ports clear? Pitot Heat?
R – Remove tiedowns and towbar?
T – Tires and brakes look OK?
S – Safety
Beacon and lights all work?
Visual Preflight Assessment
The inspection should start with the cabin door. If the door is hard to open or close, does not fit snugly, or the door latches do not engage or disengage smoothly, the surrounding structure, such as the door post, should be inspected for misalignment which could indicate structural damage. The visual preflight inspection should continue to the interior of the cabin or cockpit where carpeting should be inspected to ensure that it is serviceable, dry, and properly affixed; seats belts and shoulder harnesses should be inspected to ensure that they are free from fraying, latch properly, and are securely attached to their mounting fittings; seats should be inspected to ensure that the seats properly latch into the seat rails through the seat lock pins and that seat rail holes are not abnormally worn to an oval shape; [Figure 2-5] the windshield and windows should be inspected to ensure that they are clean and free from cracks, and crazing. A dirty, scratched, and/or a severely crazed window can result in near zero visibility due to light refraction at certain angles from the sun.
AFM/POH must be the reference for conducting the visual preflight inspection, and each manufacturer has a specified sequence for conducting the actions. In general, the following items are likely to be included in the AFM/POH preflight inspection:
• Master, alternator, and magneto switches are OFF
• Control column locks are REMOVED
• Landing gear control is DOWN
• Fuel selectors should be checked for proper operation in all positions, including the OFF position. Stiff fuel selectors or where the tank position is not legible or lacking detents are unacceptable.
• Trim wheels, which include elevator and may include rudder and aileron, are set for takeoff position.
• Avionics master OFF
• Circuit breakers checked IN
• Flight instruments must read correctly. Airspeed zero; altimeter when properly set to the current barometric setting should indicate the field elevation within 75 feet for IFR flight; the magnetic compass should indicate the airplane’ s direction accurately; and the compass correction card should be legible and complete. For conventional wet magnetic compasses, the instrument face must be clear and the instrument case full of fluid. A cloudy instrument face, bubbles in the fluid, or a partially filled case renders the compass unusable. The vertical speed indictor (VSI) should read zero. If the VSI does not show a zero reading, a small screwdriver can be used to zero the instrument. The VSI is the only flight instrument that a pilot has the prerogative to adjust. All others must be adjusted by an FAA-certificated repairman or mechanic.
• Mechanical air-driven gyro instruments must be inspected for signs of hazing on the instrument face, which may indicate leaks.
• If the airplane has retractable gear, landing gear down and locked lights are checked green.
• Check the landing gear switch is DOWN, then turn the master switch to the ON position and fuel qualities must be noted on the fuel quantity gauges and compared to a visual inspection of the tank level. If so equipped, fuel pumps may be placed in the ON position to verify fuel pressure in the proper operating range.
• Other items may include checking that lights for both the interior and exterior airplane positions are operating and any annunciator panel checks.
The rest of the section goes into detail about what to look for regarding cracks, wear, and leaks and is worth a read.
I’m not sure if the runup and radio/nav setup counts as pre-flight, but presumably it does, since the next section of the FAR is takeoffs.
Most airplanes have at least the following systems checked and set:
• Fuel System—set per the AFM/POH and verified ON and the proper and correct fuel tanks selected.
• Trim—set for takeoff position which includes the elevator and may also include rudder and aileron trim.
• Flight Controls—checked throughout their entire operating range. This includes full aileron, elevator, and rudder deflection in all directions. Often, pilots do not exercise a full range of movement of the flight controls, which is not acceptable.
• Engine Operation—checked to ensure that temperatures and pressures are in their normal ranges; magneto or Full Authority Digital Engine Control (FADEC) operation on single or dual ignition are acceptable and within limits; and, if equipped, carburetor heat is functioning. If the airplane is equipped with a constant speed or feathering propeller, that its operation is acceptable; and at minimum idle, the engine rpm continues to run smoothly.
• Electrical System—verified to ensure voltages are within operating range and that the system shows the battery system charging.
• Vacuum System—must show an acceptable level of vacuum, which is typically between 4.8 and 5.2 inches of mercury (“Hg) at 2,000 rpm. Refer to the AFM/POH for the manufacturer’s values. It is important to ensure that mechanical gyroscopic instruments have adequate time to spool up to acceptable rpm in order for them to indicate properly. A hasty and quick taxi and run-up does not allow mechanical gyroscopic instruments to indicate properly and a departure into instrument meteorological conditions (IMC) is unadvisable.
• Flight Instruments—rechecked and set for the departure. Verify that the directional gyro and the magnetic compass are in agreement. If the directional gyro has a heading bug, it may be set to the runway heading that is in use or as assigned by air traffic control (ATC).
• A vionics—set with the appropriate frequencies, initial navigation sources and courses, autopilot preselects, transponder codes, and other settings and configurations based on the airplane’s equipment and flight requirements.
• Takeoff Briefing—made out loud by the pilot even when no other person is there to listen. A sample takeoff briefing may be the following:
“This will be normal takeoff (use normal, short, or soft as appropriate) from runway (use runway assigned), wind is from the (direction and speed), rotation speed is (use the specified or calculated manufacturer’s takeoff or rotation speed (VR)), an initial turn to (use planned heading) and climb to (use initial altitude in feet). The takeoff will be rejected for engine failure below VR, applying appropriate braking, stopping ahead. Engine failure after VR and with runway remaining, I will lower pitch to best glide speed, land, and apply appropriate braking, stopping straight ahead. Engine failure after VR and with no runway remaining, I will lower pitch to best glide speed, no turns will be made prior to (insert appropriate altitude), land in the most suitable area, and apply appropriate braking, avoiding hazards on the ground as much possible. If time permits, fuel, ignition, and electrical systems will be switched off.”