10 Pilot to Pilot Tips #2

There are many things that are good to know as a pilot which are not necessarily rules.  Sometimes these are practical pieces of advice.  Most often they are lessons learned from practical experiences.  Here are a few pieces of advice, all having to do with FBOs, and rental aircraft:

  1. Before your flight put the keys to your car in your flight bag.  This way, after you’ve tied down the aircraft, you must get your car keys from your bag.  This will remind you to put the aircraft keys in the proper place in the FBO. Driving away with the aircraft keys is rarely appreciated by FBOs.
  2. Hand comes off the towbar, towbar comes off the aircraft.  Never, never, never break this rule.  There have been quite a few accidents (and prop strikes) because people took off with towbars attached to their aircraft.  It’s just a simple rule to follow, “If you take your hand off the towbar, take the towbar off the aircraft.
  3. On high wing aircraft use a step ladder to fill the tanks.  Yes, there is a foot hold on the strut of a 172.  Don’t use it.  It is just one more part to wear out, and puts unnecessary stress on the aircraft.  It’s better to wear out a (cheap) step ladder than the (expensive) aircraft.
  4. Even though it’s not necessary part of the preflight checklist, walk 15′ to 20′ in front of the aircraft and look at the plane from the front.  Take the whole aircraft in.  There may not be any visible damage up close, but maybe it’s leaning to one side, or the tail is bent.  You never know.  When you’re doing a preflight up close it’s sometimes easy to miss things that are obvious from afar.  You can also do this check walking up to the aircraft if you are approaching it directly from the front.  Also, if you land for a $100 burger you don’t necessarily have to do a full preflight checklist, but you definitely should do this one thing.  It’s really easy for a fuel truck to bump and aircraft and have no idea they did it.
  5. If you land hard – check your gear before you take off again!  Don’t assume that because you taxied okay that everything is okay.  Then, report the issue to the FBO.  They’re going to figure out you did it.  Just fess up to landing hard, and breaking the gear.  Everyone has landed hard.  You just happened to be the pilot that broke the gear.  Anyway, if you tell the FBO that you landed hard, and that you think you broke the gear they’ll scowl at you, but they’ll more than likely be happy that the next pilot didn’t discover the problem in preflight.  In fact… if you break anything – tell the FBO.  They know you didn’t do it on purpose.
  6. If you find extra pens, sunglasses, baseball caps, and other peoples personal items in the aircraft, bring them into the FBO.  There’s no reason to leave them in the aircraft unless it’s a private aircraft.  Leave a pen… but, bring everything else in.  Pilots and passengers are always leaving pens and other things in the aircraft.  Yes, you’re renting the aircraft, but it’s not like an automobile rental where someone is going to wash and vacuum it immediatly.  Be nice to the next guy.
  7. If this is your first time in this aircraft – verify the service logs.  Yes, it’s boring and very often difficult to get, but you are responsible for the condition of the aircraft.  If the emergency locator beacon battery is out of date and you land in the woods, you know who the FAA is going to blame?  You!  Because you did not do a full preflight.  That’s how the FAA report will read, “The aircraft was not compliant, and the maintenance schedule was not adhered to.  The pilot neglected…”  It will read something like that.  It doesn’t matter if the failed engine had anything to do with the ELB.  Just verify the service log sometime before your flight.  Every time you fly you are building your legal defense.  It’s sad to think of it that way, but you need to be able to prove that you did everything properly.
  8. Tie the wings down first, pull the front tiedown taught by pulling the aircraft backward using the tail tiedown,  then place the wheel chocks.  In areas with high wind it’s very important to tie aircraft down firmly.  Don’t break or bend the tiedowns, just make sure the lines are don’t have slack.
  9. If you don’t know what to say to a controller, or your mind is drawing a blank as to a term, don’t fumble for the pilot way of speaking.  Just speak in plain English.  If you want to cross over the center of the runway and circle around, and for some reason you forgot the term, “mid-field” nobody is taking notes or keeping score.  Just say what you mean.  Sure, it’ll be a little odd to say that you’re crossing in the middle of the runway, but it’s better than stumbling over your words.
  10. When the radio is busy – slow down what you’re doing and get your checklists done early.  You need to be in less of a rush when there is allot going on around you.  This way, if you’ve been preemptive, when it’s your turn to communicate, you can simply wait for the controller or other aircraft to acknowledge your requests.  Situational awareness is easy to loose when a bunch of things are happening at once, and being aware of all the traffic in an area isn’t always possible.  It’s best to leave as little for yourself to do in congested airspace as possible.


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