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(article) Preflight Planning

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Preflight Planning


Fri, 13 Oct '06




A good pilot is always learning -- how many times have you heard this old standard throughout your flying career? There is no truer statement in all of flying (well, with the possible exception of "there are no old, bold pilots.")


Aero-News has called upon the expertise of Thomas P. Turner, master CFI and all-around-good-guy, to bring our readers -- and us -- daily tips to improve our skills as aviators. Some of them, you may have heard before... but for each of us, there will also be something we might never have considered before, or something that didn't "stick" the way it should have the first time we memorized it for the practical test.


Look for our daily Aero-Tips segments, coming each day to you through the Aero-News Network.


The FAA publishes what it considers to be the "Top 10" causes of pilot-error mishaps-a category that itself makes up over 70% of all accidents. The Feds don't rank-order the Top 10, but the first on their list is inadequate preflight preparation and/or planning.


<STRONG title=http://a257.g.akamaitech.net/7/257/2422/14mar20010800/edocket.access.gpo.gov/cfr_2001/janqtr/14cfr91.103.htm>FAR 91.103[/b] tells us before flight the pilot-in-command is required to become familiar with "all available information" concerning that flight, including:


For a flight under IFR [instrument flight rules] or a flight not in the vicinity of an airport [including VFR flight away from the airport traffic pattern]:


Weather reports and forecast


Fuel requirements


Alternatives available if the planned flight cannot be completed


Any known Air Traffic Control delays


For all flights:


Runway lengths at airports of intended use


Required takeoff and landing distance data (if available in the aircraft's Approved Flight Manual) or


For aircraft without an Approved Flight Manual, "other reliable information" relating to aircraft performance under aircraft, airport and environmental conditions


Get real


What we really need to do to be safe, and avoid this most-common cause of pilot error accidents, is to be able to predict with certainty whether:


The aircraft can safely take off from the intended runway or surface under current weather conditions at the airplane's actual takeoff weight using the planned pilot technique;


The aircraft (under those conditions) can climb over any obstacles on takeoff with an adequate safety margin;


The airplane will have adequate fuel to arrive at destination or, in the case of a diversion, at an alternate airport with no less than minimum fuel required for preflight planning, using the power setting, leaning technique and fuel tank selection process to be employed by the pilot, accounting for any known or reasonably expected traffic delays;


Weather is and will remain above the minimums prescribed for the type of flight (IFR or VFR), the airplane's equipment and the pilot's currency, and in which direction conditions will improve in the case a diversion becomes necessary;


The aircraft can safely clear obstacles and land on the intended destination runway or surface, or that of any anticipated alternate, under forecast weather conditions for the time of arrival, at the anticipated aircraft weight on landing, and using the anticipated pilot technique.


Beyond the FAR requirements I would also add knowing:


The minimum safe altitude for the type of flight (IFR or VFR), for each segment of the flight, and from the planned route along any alternative route to the planned destination or any anticipated alternate.


Aero-tip of the day: If you know the answers to all these points, and the answer is "yes", you're much more likely to avoid this Top 10 cause of pilot error mishaps.



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