Flight Deck Inspection
The following should be performed for a flight deck inspection:
- Check seat security and proper adjustment for pilot and passenger.
- Check seat belt attachment and seatbelt operation.
- Inspect the gauges for security and readability.
- Switch electrical master on and check gauges for expected readings. [Figure 5-58]
- Check ballistic parachute handle for security and proper location.
Overall, particular attention should be paid to the fuel quantity, type/grade, and quality. Modern WSC two- and four-stroke engines are designed to use auto gas with various octane ratings as specified by the manufacturer for different models. If auto gas is stored for more than 3 weeks, octane value may fall below the recommended rating. In this situation, it is best to drain the gas and use fresh gas. For engines designed for auto gas, aviation gasoline (AVGAS) 100LL can be mixed and used on a limited basis but the lead in this is not good for the engine and additional precautions/procedures should be researched for the particular make/model of engine for primary use.
Always use a higher grade/octane of fuel rather than a lower grade, or detonation will severely damage the engine in a very short period of time. Check the aircraft operation manual and the engine manual for the type of fuel to use.
When attempting to fuel for maximum capacity, remember that many fuel tanks are very sensitive to attitude. Fill the aircraft on a level surface and check to ensure the amount of fuel in the tanks is adequate for the planned flight plus 30 minutes of reserve. Check the level in the fuel tank plus the panel-mounted gauge, if so equipped.
To transport gasoline, clear gas cans are preferable because the fuel is visible through the container and allows a pilot to look at the container for fuel level. [Figure 5-59]
An important step in any preflight is to check for water and other sediment contamination. Avgas is more probable to have water in the fuel tanks because auto gas typically has alcohol in it to boost the octane. Alcohol absorbs water, running it harmlessly through the system.
When using 100LL Avgas, water tends to accumulate in fuel tanks from condensation, particularly in partially filled tanks. Because water is heavier than fuel, it tends to collect in the low points of the fuel system. If Avgas is used, drain any water from the low point in the system.
A four-stroke engine’s oil level should be checked during each preflight and rechecked with each refueling. Fourstroke engines can be expected to consume a small amount of oil during normal operation. If consumption grows or suddenly changes, qualified maintenance personnel should investigate.
If the Rotax 912 oil level is low when the oil is checked, rotate the propeller in the correct direction (counterclockwise, facing it) to pump any oil from the engine back into the oil tank for a proper measurement and recheck oil level before adding oil. [Figure 5-60]
Check the reservoir level of two-stroke engines with oil injection at each gas fill-up. It is also very important to ensure the oil reservoir has clear air vent holes to allow continuous flow of oil to lubricate the engine. Always use the same type of oil because different types of oil harden and stop the oil injection process, resulting in a seized engine. Additionally, check to see if the oil injection system lines from the tank to the carburetors are clean and secure. Some two-stroke engines have a separate lubrication system for the inlet rotary valve; this system should be checked for proper level and leaks. [Figure 5-61] When adding fuel and oil, ensure that the caps has been securely replaced.
Ready Aircraft To Enter Flight Deck
Either before or after the routine preflight inspection, the aircraft should be unsecured, positioned for starting, and readied to enter the flight deck. A checklist provides the basic steps.
- Untie aircraft, secure tie down ropes in aircraft, or coil neatly if they stay at airport.
- Remove ground chocks and secure in aircraft.
- Locate a suitable area to start engine that is free of dirt and has minimal dust, preferably a paved or grassy area away from people and objects.
- Position aircraft so prop blast is clear; verify that brakes are on, throttle is closed, and propeller area is cleared.
- Position into wind, if possible, for best cooling during warm up.
Occupant Preflight Brief
A preflight briefing is required to ensure the passenger is informed on the proper use of safety equipment and exit information. This can be done before entering the aircraft, and must be accomplished before starting the engine. Manufacturers of S-LSA aircraft typically have printed briefing cards that should be used. The following is a comprehensive checklist that can be used as a guideline for any preflight briefing:
- Seat belt fasten and unfasten procedures. Seat belts must be worn for takeoff and landing (and should always be worn during flight).
- What passengers can hold onto and what not to touch.
- Positive exchange of controls using a three step process : “You take the controls,” “I have the controls,” “You have the controls.”
- Look for other ground and air traffic.
- Flight deck entrance and exit procedures including emergency exit.
- Ballistic parachute operation procedures.
- Engine-out situation and procedures for planned flight with diversions.
- Hand signals in case electric loads must be shut off or internal aircraft communications not functioning.
- Water landings with engine-out situation, if planned flight over water.
- Ensure nothing can fall out of pockets while in flight. This is especially important since the propeller is in back.
- Helmet fastening and unfastening procedure. [Figure 5-62]
- Review the type of aircraft (special or experimental) which is not an FAA certified standard category aircraft.
- Fire extinguisher operation, if so equipped.
- All safety systems, as required.
- Use restroom before entering aircraft.
Flight Deck Management
After entering the flight deck, the pilot should first ensure that all necessary equipment, documents, checklists, and navigation charts appropriate for the flight are on board. [Figure 5-63] If a portable intercom, headsets, or a hand-held global positioning system (GPS) is used, the pilot is responsible for ensuring that the routing of wires and cables does not interfere with the motion or the operation of any control.
Regardless of what materials are to be used, they should be neatly arranged and organized in a manner that makes them readily available. The flight deck should be checked for articles that might be tossed about if turbulence is encountered, and any loose items properly secured.
When the pilot is comfortably seated, the safety belt and shoulder harness (if installed) should be fastened and adjusted to a comfortably snug fit. The safety belt must be worn at all times the pilot is seated at the controls.
Checklist After Entering Flight Deck
- Seats adjusted for full operation of all controls.
- Seats locked into position.
- Put on seat belts (lap first, then shoulder) and adjust so all controls and systems can be fully operated.
- Check all control systems for proper operation.
- Check all systems operations.
- Demonstrate and practice flight and emergency equipment and procedures.
- Demonstrate and practice what passengers can hold onto, and what not to touch.
- Demonstrate and practice positive exchange of controls.
- Remove safety pin for ballistic chute operation.
- Install helmet (if applicable) and headphones.
- Check intercom and radio communications systems.
- Install eye protection (safety glasses, helmet shields).
It is important that a pilot operates an aircraft safely on the ground. This includes being familiar with standard hand signals that are used universally for ground operations. [Figure 5-64]
The specific procedures for engine start vary greatly since there are as many different methods as there are engines, fuel systems, and starting conditions. The engine start checklist procedures in the POH should be followed. The following are some basic steps that apply to most aircraft:
- Key in, ignition on, master power on
- Check gauges for operation and fuel level.
- Fuel pump on (or pump fuel bulb to fill carburetor bowls)
- System switches on. (Some WSC have specific system switches turned on after the engine is started because engine starting may create lower voltage possibly damaging instruments or systems. If in doubt, start engine and than turn on instruments and systems not needed for starting.)
- Both ignition systems switches on
- Choke/enrichener on (or pump primer as appropriate)
- Throttle closed
- Brakes on
- Ensure propeller area is cleared, loudly announce to propeller area “Clear prop,” and wait for any response.
- Start engine through pull cord start or electric start (do not try to hand prop under any circumstances)
- Ensure the aircraft does not move, keeping hands on ignition switches for quick shutdown, if necessary.
- Adjust throttle, choke or enrichener to keep engine running smoothly.
- Turn on electric instruments if applicable.
- Check gauges for proper ranges (oil pressure, revolutions per minute (rpm), charging voltage, engine temperatures within ranges, etc.)
- Continue to monitor area and shut down engine if any person or animal approaches.
A relatively low rpm setting is recommended immediately following engine start. This is typically a slight increase in the throttle to keep the engine running smoothly. It is not recommended to allow the rpm to race immediately after a start with a cold engine, as there is insufficient lubrication until the oil pressure rises on four-stroke engines, and unequal heating on two-stroke engines. In freezing temperatures, the engine is also exposed to potential mechanical distress until it warms and normal internal operating clearances are reached.
On four-stroke engines, as soon as the engine is started, the oil pressure should be checked. If it does not rise to the manufacturer’s specified value, the engine may not be receiving proper lubrication and should be shut down immediately to prevent serious damage.