You may have heard us say here at Charleston Flight School that we don’t want to just each you to fly- we want to teach you to be a pilot. There’s a difference. Whether you intend to fly for a career or fun, here are a few things that every pilot should do:
1) Arrive at the airport at least 30 minutes prior to your scheduled departure. This allows time for a thorough pre-flight inspection, as well as time to take care of any issues. Perhaps you need fuel, or to add air to a tire. If you have ever waited on a fuel truck, you know how much time even a simple task can take. Building in some extra time will greatly reduce any schedule-induced anxiety, as well as the temptation to cut corners to save time. If you are working for a carrier or charter, you will be required to show up at least an hour before your flight, so start the habit early.
2) Choose your run-up area carefully. Don’t spray debris onto nearby airplanes. It’s dangerous and rude, and a rookie move.
3) Be patient on the radio. I know, there are really nasty, inconsiderate, and clueless people out there. It’s easy to get involved in an on-air argument, but you are still flying an airplane, and that needs to be your priority, always. Heated discussions on the unicom frequency makes both parties sound bad. Say what you have to say for the safety of the flight, and suffer the fools like a professional. Let the other guy have the last word, especially if it’s a stupid one.
4) Get off the runway and stop the airplane before you complete your after-landing checklist. Seriously, this is so important. You might think you can control a spinning prop while your head is in the cockpit. Until you don’t. Always ask yourself, what’s the worst thing that can happen if I don’t pay attention to where the airplane is going, then compare that the worst thing that can happen if you stop and then go through your checklist. Easy call, right?
5) After landing, complete the shutdown checklist completely. There IS a checklist for that, and failure to follow it is one of the main reasons that people walk away from the airplane with the battery master in the ON position, and we all know how much the next pilot will appreciate that.
6) Secure the airplane completely. I’m referring not just to chocks or tiedowns, but also to pitot covers, gust locks, and any other item necessary to protect the airplane. And please, do NOT leave with the parking brake set unless you have a specific reason, and then make sure the line personnel knows.
7) Clean out the airplane before you leave. Empty oil containers, water bottles, soft drink cans, food wrappers- whether it’s yours or not, you should never walk away from an airplane without looking inside and removing any trash.
8) Notify someone if you can’t bring the airplane back as scheduled. People are waiting for that airplane, and if you are late, everyone behind you falls behind too. Sometimes circumstances don’t allow you to get back on time- never fly in a questionable airplane or weather, but if you are running behind, it’s just common courtesy to send a message to someone.