| Tutorials home | Decreasing risk exposure | Safety tour | Emergencies | Meteorology | Flight Theory | Communications | Builders guide |

Fly safe! home page

Pre-flight safety and legality check

Rev. 27b — page content was last changed 29 December 2013
Flight Planning and Navigation

Google logo

Before departure you should have determined if you are completely prepared for the flight and any emergencies that may arise; checked that all navigation planning, navigation equipment, aircraft equipment and survival equipment requirements have been met; lodged your detailed flight plan — in the form of a Flight Note with a responsible person — ensured the aircraft is fit for the journey and the daily inspection has been signed off; attended to your passenger and finally, confirmed that the weather and your own physical and psychological condition are conducive to a safe flight operation.


6.1 Being prepared for an emergency

There is always a possibility of an en route engine problem, or other event, necessitating an off-airfield landing. A reasonable knowledge is required of the procedures with such incidents, particularly those occurring in remote areas and you should have an emergency check list readily available in flight. Read the 'Coping with emergencies' guide.

Before departure it is certainly wise — if not mandatory — to leave enough information with a responsible person, so if you fail to check in with them by an agreed time a telephone ring-around can be initiated. If that is unsuccessful the Rescue Coordination Centre of the Australian Search and Rescue organisation [AusSAR] can be notified. AusSAR will attempt to make contact with the missing aircraft. If that is also unsuccessful AusSAR will initiate a search that uses your planned track as a starting point. The information that AusSAR requires is contained in the flight note form recommended by the Australian Maritime Safety Authority [AMSA]. AusSAR is a division of AMSA.

For further information on communications when in difficulties, the legal requirement to carry a 406.025 MHz ELT, AusSAR ELT monitoring and search procedures; refer to the 'Safety and emergency communication procedures' in the VHF radiocommunications guide.

6.2 Planning and equipment check list

There are several civil aviation regulations (a copy of which can be viewed at Some noteworthy sections of the Civil Aviation Act 1988, the CAR 1988 and the CASR 1998) that direct pilot actions before flight. These regulations are CAR 78 'Navigation logs', CAR 92 'Use of aerodromes', CAR 233 'Responsibility of pilot in command before flight', CAR 234 'Fuel requirements', CAR 235 'Take-off and landing of aircraft etc', CAR 235A 'Minimum runway width', CAR 239 'Planning of flight by pilot in command', CAR 244 'Safety precautions before take-off' and CAR 282 'Offences in relation to licences, certificates and authorities'. The requirement for two-place aeroplanes to carry an approved emergency locator transmitter is stated in CAR 252A; single-seat aircraft are exempt from that requirement but it's certainly wise for all aeroplanes to carry an ELT.

In addition CAR 232 'Flight check system' requires provision of procedural check lists and the pilot must ensure that the check lists are carried in the aircraft. Note that CASA EX38/2004 exempts owners/operators of aircraft with a MTOW under 5700 kg from compliance with the requirement to obtain prior CASA approval of those flight check systems.

It is advisable to run through a flight planning, navigation equipment and aircraft equipment check to ensure that all requirements have been covered. So, have you:
  1. established the safest route and minimum safe altitude; avoiding rough or heavily forested terrain, designated remote areas, other hazardous areas, restricted areas and CTA/CTR — or airspace where a functioning Mode C/S transponder is mandatory — and marked that route on the paper or digital chart you will use in flight?

  2. double checked that all magnetic bearings and distances on the flight plan have been measured and recorded correctly?

  3. checked the locations and the suitability of refuelling stops, of the destination airfield and of alternate landing areas?

  4. checked their details in ERSA including ASIC requirements and the landing charges applicable? For airfields not listed in ERSA have you checked with the owner/operator about the airfield dimensions, slope, condition, approach and departure terrain limitations, animals, tree heights, power lines and other obstructions/hazards? Is your skill level sufficient to safely land and take-off at those airfields?

  5. checked the en route, destination and alternate airfields' weather, cloud base and visibility (ARFOR, TAFs, METARS and surface chart), end of daylight (bearing in mind the effect of forecast cloud conditions on visibility) and NOTAM (ADs, ALAs plus restricted area and military low jet route status)?

  6. checked the BoM weather radars and other internet lightning tracker sites?

  7. left a flight note — showing the itinerary and the information required by the Rescue Coordination Centre — with a responsible person who knows what action to take if you fail to check in by the agreed time?

  8. checked that watch, compass, ASI and altimeter function okay and that nothing is placed in such proximity that compass operation will be affected?

  9. checked that the VHF transceiver is functional and noted/loaded all the required frequencies?

  10. checked that the 406 MHz ELT battery is functional, not past the replacement date and that the AMSA registration sticker is current and attached to the device? Shown your passenger how to operate the ELT/EPIRB and firmly attached the device to your body?

  11. provided back-up batteries for handheld equipment?

  12. life jackets donned, if any part of the flight is over water?

  13. decided whether to take an inflatable life raft with emergency survival kit?

  14. provided a first aid kit in the aircraft and a helmet for your passenger?

  15. demonstrated the intercom system to your passenger?

  16. ensured that your passenger is:
    (a) familiar with the safe operation of the seat, seat-belt, safety harness and the cockpit door and
    (b) knows to keep their feet off the rudder pedals and not to grab the controls if startled?

  17. if intending to carry a child as the passenger, provided an adequate child restraint system plus an appropriate protective helmet? Have you considered whether any child would be legally regarded as a risk-informed participant?

  18. selected clothing suitable for the surface conditions, in case of an unplanned landing?

  19. packed an extra supply of prescribed medication?

  20. provided an adequate fresh water supply in your survival pack?

  21. provided additional survival equipment, if operating into a designated remote area shown in ERSA GEN-FIS 'Designated remote areas' or on VNCs?

  22. loaded tie-down gear securely?

  23. checked that the Aircraft Flight Manual/Pilot's Operating Handbook, cockpit check lists and flight plan, plus all the associated Airservices Australia documents and publications, are current and on board? If the aeroplane is an LSA check that a copy of the CoA and Statement of Conformity is in the aircraft flight manual. (Maps, check lists, AFM/POH and flight plan could be digitally stored in an appropriate and approved electronic flight bag, but see 'Electronic flight planning & the EFB'; the check lists might be stored in an EFIS)

  24. physically checked the fuel in the tanks and oil in the engine for suitability, quality and water or other contamination? Stowed the fine fuel filter funnel for en route use?

  25. physically confirmed that the actual fuel load provides a reasonable margin — on top of the flight plan needs including the reserve?

  26. measured and ensured that aircraft take-off weight and centre of gravity — with everything and everyone loaded — will be within the limits stated in the Aircraft Flight Manual/Pilot's Operating Handbook and retained evidence of the W&B calculation?

  27. calculated the density altitude — and the take-off distance required from the Aircraft Flight Manual/Pilot's Operating Handbook to ensure that take-off distance, to clear a 50 feet screen, is amply provided by the dimensions and current condition of the intended runway at the departure airfield?

  28. done the same density altitude calculations for the destination and alternate airfields, and ascertained that the effect on landing, take-off, and climb-out performance, at the expected aircraft weights and cg positions, will still provide an adequate safety margin taking into account the forecast weather plus the dimensions and condition of each of those airfields, and including the possibility of a late go-around?

[ The next section in the airmanship and safety sequence is the following section Personal fitness for flight ]

6.3 Personal fitness for flight

The next check is a personal one, determining if YOU are safe to fly. A mnemonic checklist has been developed for that purpose. Answering 'yes' to any of these questions may mean that your alertness, perception, judgement, general performance or situation awareness capabilities are seriously downgraded; also you are likely to forget to do something that must be done.

The I'M SAAFE checklist is:
Do I have an illness or any symptoms of an illness or disorder or a known condition that could present an in-flight hazard?

Medication and other drugs?
Have I been taking/mixing prescription, over-the-counter or 'recreational' drugs?

Stress and distraction?
Am I under psychological pressure from the job or personal circumstances? Am I worried about financial matters, health problems, family problems, emotional problems or relationship discord? Am I worried about undertaking this flight?

If you are in your later years, have you considered whether your ability to cope quickly and wisely with an emergency or an unfamiliar situation may have reached the point where it would be prudent to be accompanied by another qualified pilot?

Have I been consuming alcohol within the previous 8 hours? (Even within 8–16 hours after consumption, blood alcohol levels can be significant. If tested by an authorised person, the permissible blood alcohol reading is less than 0.02, which is to allow for any anomaly caused by — for example — the alcohol (or similar) content of some medical preparations. Would my average alcohol consumption be classified at greater than 'very low risk'?

Am I tired, inadequately rested or suffering from lack of sleep?

Eating and drinking?
Am I inadequately nourished and/or dehydrated?

There are several articles, contained in the online version of CASA's magazine Flight Safety Australia, which are recommended reading. See the section titled 'Aviation medicine' in our index to those magazine articles.

[ The next section in the airmanship and safety sequence is the section describing a Procedure when 'lost']

6.4 Staying within the rules

Carriage of passengers
Prior to flying an LSA-certificated aircraft, the pilot must inform the passenger that the aircraft does not meet the same airworthiness requirements as an aircraft with a Standard Certificate of Airworthiness.

Note: sport and recreational aviators, and the single passenger allowed, are defined by CASA (only in the aviation regulatory sense) as 'informed participants' in the activity being pursued. An informed participant is aware of the risks involved in a particular form of sport and recreational aviation and is willing to accept those risks. How do you make your passenger aware of the potential risks inherent in sport and recreational aviation so he/she can make a risk-informed decision about their participation? Various warning placards must be displayed in the aircraft cockpit but that's hardly sufficient. What if the passenger is legally a child, how can any child be considered a 'risk-informed' participant? Legally, pilots have a duty of care toward their passenger and may not take needless risks or act in an irrational manner.

If you intend carrying a passenger have you performed at least three take-offs and landings within the last 90 days? See the RA-Aus Operations Manual section 2.07 para. 11.

Passenger care: please read the RA-Aus Operations Manager's advice on passenger care, appearing in the July 2013 issue of the RA-Aus journal 'Sport Pilot'.
Aircraft fitness for flight
The Technical Manual section 4.2.1 requires that, before departure, the pilot-in-command must ensure that the aircraft is correctly maintained (by reference to the aircraft log book), the daily inspection has been completed, the RA-Aus registration card is in place and current and the aircraft's fitness for flight has been confirmed by means of a personal pre-flight inspection.
Carriage of flight documentation
CAR 233 (1) (h) states that 'Pilots are required to carry, and have readily accessible in the aircraft, the latest editions of the aeronautical maps, charts and other aeronautical information and instructions, published in AIP, or by an organisation approved by CASA, that are applicable to the route to be flown, and any alternative route that may be flown, on that flight'. Currently (December 2013) that means the paper maps and charts from Airservices Australia, not digital maps stored in an iPad or other tablet computer except if the EFB software is from a CASA approved supplier. The 'other aeronautical information' for VFR operations outside controlled airspace would include the current ERSA and relevant ARFORs, TAFs, METAR, NOTAM etc from the NAIPS Internet Service.

Note: these requirements are in addition to the regulations mentioned above.

CAR 78 states 'The pilot in command of an aircraft shall keep a log of such navigational data as is required to enable him or her to determine the geographical position of the aircraft at any time while the aircraft is in flight' and that 'The log shall be kept in chronological order'. The content of the log is not specified for aircraft operating within Australia however a fuel log facility should also be included. Weight-shift aircraft operating under CAO 95.32 are exempt from the need to maintain a navigational log.

CAR 139 nominates other documents (aircraft maintenance release, aircraft flight manual, pilot licence, medical certificate) to be carried in flight, however sport and recreational aircraft operating under CAOs 95.10, 95.32 or 95.55 are exempt from complying with CAR 139. The RA-Aus Operations Manual section 2.01 requires pilots to carry their Pilot Certificate and produce it on demand from an RA-Aus official, a CASA official or a police officer; but there is no requirement (for non-LSA aircraft) in the RA-Aus Technical or Operations Manuals that mandates carriage of other documents except the aircraft registration renewal card.

LSA aircraft are also required to carry at least a copy of their Special CoA, Statement of Compliance, weight and balance information under the requirements of the Technical Manual section 7.5.3(7).

There is no requirement in the regulations or the RA-Aus Operations Manual for pilots to carry their personal logbook in flight, however, you may find it useful to carry a copy of the logbook notation of the successful completion of a still current flight review and, if carrying a passenger, something that confirms the recent experience requirements.

The Technical and Operations Manuals require that all pertinent cockpit placards, warnings and other labels, be in place and visible to pilot and passenger.
Expect a 'ramp check' inspection
Generally RAAO members won't come into contact with CASA officers. However, officers from the Self-administering Sport Aviation Organisations Section do carry out 'ramp check' inspections on pilot and aircraft after landing or before take-off, at any airfield where sport and recreational aircraft are operating. Such operational checks are consistent with the Section's safety surveillance role and are the only means by which the CASA officers can sample the professionalism of the RA-Aus membership and, perhaps, the professionalism of the flight school where the more recently qualified pilots were trained. There is no need for pilots to be fearful or antagonistic — regard the check as an opportunity for a useful learning experience.

Those Flying Operations Inspectors might be interested in how the flight has been planned, whether appropriate information available from the NAIPS Internet Service (and from other authoritative sources) has been used and what the navigation/fuel log reveals about how closely the flight conformed with the plan. Other checks might be appropriateness of Pilot Certificate endorsements to the journey, the aircraft type and the carriage of a passenger; evidence on currency of the biennial aeroplane flight review; currency of aircraft registration; cockpit labels/warnings/placards in place plus safety harness conditions and appropriateness.

The check might include any of the items listed in the preceding planning and equipment check list but perhaps items 7, 10, 23 and 26 stand out. The Self-administering Sport Aviation Organisations Section produced a ramp check booklet in December 2013 that can be supplied in printed form. CAR 232 'Flight check system' is listed under 'Document references' but as it stands the booklet reference to CAR 232 is a little misleading for aircraft weighing less than 5700 kg, so please read an annotated version of CAR 232 on this website.

Back to top

Groundschool – Flight planning & Navigation Guide

| Guide contents | 1. Australian airspace regulations | 2. Aeronautical charts & compass | 3. Route planning |

| 4. Effect of wind | 5. Flight plan completion | [6.Pre-flight safety and legality check] | 7. Airmanship, flight discipline & HF training |

| 8. En route adjustments | 9. Supplementary techniques | 10. En route navigation using the GNSS |

| 11. Using the ADF | 12. Electronic flight planning & the EFB | 13. ADS-B surveillance technology |

Supplementary documents

| Operations at non-controlled airfields | Safety during take-off & landing |

Next - airmanship The next section of the flight planning & navigation ground school discusses airmanship and flight discipline

Copyright © 2001–2014 John Brandon     [contact information]