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12 Things Every Pilot Should Do Before Flying

It may be second nature to you, but don't forget what flying really means. You're about to pilot a complicated piece of equipment through the air with passengers that rely on you for safety. Here are a few things every pilot should do before takeoff:

1) Check The Logbooks

Always remember to check the aircraft logbooks before you fly. Even if the plane has been inspected, it's not technically airworthy until it's been properly signed off in the logbook. As PIC, the responsibility will fall on you for flying an un-airworthy aircraft.

Andrew Stover

2) Get An Official Weather Briefing

By calling 1-800-WX-BRIEF or going to DUATS online, you'll learn about the pertinent weather that may affect your flight.

Jason Pineau

3) Make Sure To Get Briefed on NOTAMs and TFRs Affecting Your Route

Once you're in the air, if you don't talk to ATC, there's little stopping you from breaking a NOTAM or busting a TFR if you haven't been briefed.

FAA / Skyvector

4) Do A Weight And Balance / Fuel Calculation

Are you doing a cross country or overnight trip with a full plane? Make sure to do your weight and balance calculation and fuel allocations before you take off.

Swayne Martin

5) Don't Forget A Performance Calculation

Why risk not making a takeoff or landing when you can just calculate the aircraft's performance, especially if you're "hot, high, and heavy?"

6) Familiarize Yourself With All Frequencies, Airspace, And Airports You'll Use

As the PIC, it's your responsibility to become familiar with all aspects of the flight BEFORE you take off. Become familiar with frequencies, airspace, and airports so you're not fumbling around mid-flight looking for an answer.

Haley Howard

7) Plan For Diversions

Always have a backup plan in mind if you hit unexpected weather, have an in-flight emergency, or need to take a break. Consider planning your route to overfly airports that you could use.

GolfCharlie232

8) Perform A Thorough Pre-Flight Check

Cutting corners before a flight is a good way to put yourself at risk in the air. Don't forget to manually check fuel, oil, tires, control surfaces, and the engine, among others, during a pre-flight check. Even if you've only landed for a quick break, it's always a good idea to check for unexpected issues. Consider having your passengers wait at the FBO while you do a pre-flight check, so you can focus all of your attention on the airplane.

Haley Howard

9) Set Up Your Cockpit

Before you start the engine, set up the cockpit the way you like it. Make sure you have everything secured and in its place so you don't get distracted in the air.

Swayne Martin

10) Give Your Passengers Confidence

If you're flying with passengers, especially those new to flying in general aviation aircraft, don't forget to make them feel comfortable by explaining why, when, and how the flight will work, and what to do during possible emergency situations. Staying calm, collected, and confident, yourself, will spread to those in the plane with you. Explain to passengers that you'll be using checklists not because you don't know what you're doing, but because it's a way of cross-checking procedures.

Swayne Martin

11) Place Checklists Within Reach

Always use manufacturer checklists for your aircraft as you run through procedures. Make sure checklists, including emergency checklists, are within reach of your seated position for easy access.

Swayne Martin

12) Relax - There's No Rush

Most of all, just relax. If you see something questionable as your prepare for a flight, don't hesitate to make the decision not to fly. While it may be second nature to you, flying an airplane is complicated and involves a lot of critical steps, so don't rush as you prepare. Take a few minutes before you climb into the cockpit to get some water and relax.

Jim Raeder

Swayne Martin

Swayne is an editor at Boldmethod, certified flight instructor, and commercial pilot for Mokulele Airlines. He holds multi-engine and instrument ratings, and is an aviation student at the University of North Dakota. He's the author of the articles, quizzes and lists you love to read every week. You can reach Swayne at swayne@boldmethod.com, and follow his flying adventures at http://www.swaynemartin.com.

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