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Pre-Flight Inspections





The purpose of this Safety Advisory is to inform pilots of their responsibilities as Pilot in Command and the safety precautions that are required to be exercised before flight. A pre-flight checklist and visual aid to pre-flight inspection will accompany this article. Human Performance Factors, and, Threats and Error Management will be considered.  It has been prompted by incidents that have occurred on flights authorised by Melbourne Flight Training and that have been observed on flights authorised by other operators at Moorabbin Airport.

The purpose of the pre-flight inspection is to ensure that the aircraft is safe for flight in all respects. It includes: removal of locking devices, security of external openings and to ensure the aircraft carries necessary equipment, fuel and engine oil. It is last opportunity for the Pilot in Command to inspect the aircraft for defects that may have occurred subsequent to the Daily Inspection and that have not have been recorded on the Maintenance Release.

Melbourne Flight Training’s Safety Management System has recorded the following incidents involving pre-flight inspections:

  • An aeroplane took-off with the pitot cover in place resulting in a zero indication on the airspeed indicator for the duration of the flight.
  • A flight was conducted with a fuel cap not secured resulting in the loss of 60 litres of fuel in a flight of one hour.
  • A Cessna 152 and a Cessna 172 taxied for take-off with their rudder gust lock not removed before being alerted to the error by ground and tower personnel.
  • A Piper Warrior returned for landing when ropes were observed trailing from the underwing tie down loops. The tie-down ropes broke free from the ground attachment points at the commencement of taxiing.
  • On two occasions, taxiing Piper Warriors were alerted by other parties that they were trailing tie-down equipment.
  • A flight was conducted with the oil dip stick left on the ground where the pre-flight inspection was performed.
  • A Piper Warrior was started-up for a flight with fuel streaming from the fuel strainer/gascolator drain fitting before being alerted to shut down by a passing pilot. This resulted in the loss of 10 litres of fuel in a few minutes.
  • An aeroplane was shut down immediately after start up when the pilot noted that the oil pressure remained at zero. The oil had not been replenished after it had been drained during maintenance.
  • A pilot had to shut down the engine during the initial taxi when the toe-brakes became jammed by a foreign object left by maintenance personnel.
  • An aeroplane was flown on 5 separate days with the forward cowling securing screws missing as a result of a maintenance oversight. This resulted in damage to the cowling and had the potential for the cowling to separate and detach in flight.
  • A Piper Warrior returned from flight with 3 of the cowling latches incorrectly fastened and the remaining one unfastened.
  • A Piper Warrior aborted its take-off aborted when the airspeed indicator showed zero. The pitot cover had not been removed before flight. The pitot cove visibility device had been incorrectly attached to the stall warner vane and was not visible to the pilot!


Melbourne Flight Training’s Safety Management System is aware of the following recent incidents relating to the pre-flight inspections of other operator’s aircraft:

  • A Cessna 152 having reported ready at the holding point for the runway was alerted that the rudder gust lock had not been removed.
  • A Cessna 152 took-off with the rudder gust lock not removed.
  • An Aero-Commander took-off with the aeroplanes “chock-lock” attached to the nose wheel.
  • A Piper Warrior was observed with the cargo door fully open on approach to land.
  • Two aeroplanes were forced to land (crash) due to fuel exhaustion when the pilots failed to observe that they had sufficient quantity of fuel on board for the flight.

Review of regulations

Other references

  • The Aircraft Flight Manual for the aeroplane being prepared for flight
  • Melbourne Flight Training’s Operations Manual

The pre-flight checks must include those items: required by Civil Aviation Safety regulations, required by Melbourne Flight Training’s Operations Manual, stated in the Aircraft Flight Manual and any additional items to ensure the safety of the flight.


The pre-flight inspection should occur immediately before to the Pilot in Command boards the aircraft for flight. The pre-flight inspection may occur in conjunction with the daily inspection.

Fuel system inspection and fuel quantity measurement

Ensure that the minimum fuel required for the flight (and maximum with reference to weight and balance limitations) is on board and available for the flight. Approved methods to determine the fuel quantity on board are:

  • Visually. The level of fuel in the tanks is observed to be full or to fuel filler indicators or tabs.
  • Calibrated fuel gauges. With the aircraft on reasonably level ground the quantity of fuel may be determined with the use the fuel calibration card.
  • Fuel consumed at a determined rate from a previously known quantity is calculated. Actual fuel consumed against flight time may be reconciled with planned fuel consumption rates (Block figures.)

A fuel drain test is performed on the first flight of the day and after each refuelling. A quantity of fuel is drained from each tank and from critical points (specified in the AFM) in the fuel system to visually test for the presence of water and its colour for grade. An odour test may be performed to check for contaminants (Primarily AVTUR.)

Ensure that fuel caps are secure.

Check fuel tank vents are free from obstruction (ice, frost and insect infestation.)

Oil quantity sufficient

The pilot in command must ensure that sufficient oil (and other consumables) are available for the proposed flight. Actual oil consumed against flight time obtained from the Maintenance Release should be used when planning minimum oil levels for flights. MFT stipulates minimum oil quantities, greater than those required by the manufacturer, before flight.

Removal of control locks and safety devices

Ensure that the following have been removed and safely stowed or secured before start-up:

  • Control locks
  • Aircraft security devices
  • Pitot covers
  • Cowling bungs
  • Windscreen covers, internal and external
  • Tail stands
  • Tow bars
  • Boarding equipment
  • Ground tie down ropes and chains
  • Wheel chocks and chock-locks

Removal of frost and ice

The pilot in command is to ensure that all external surfaces are completely free from frost and ice.

Inspection of flight controls

When an aircraft’s controls have been left un-secured in winds exceeding 35kt the control system is required to be inspected for damage by the pilot in command or an appropriately licenced maintenance engineer. Consideration should be given possibility that the aircraft may have been subject to propeller slipstream, helicopter down wash or jet blast exceeding 35kt.

Immediately before taxiing for take-off, the pilot in command shall test the flight controls for full and free movement and are correctly functioning.

Security of safety harnesses on unoccupied control seats

The pilot in command must ensure that safety harnesses on unoccupied control and passenger seats are secured in such a fashion to prevent interference with flight controls. Ensure loose articles are restrained to prevent the aircraft’s controls from being fouled.

Pilot in Command to ensure that the aeroplane is fitted with instruments required for the flight

The pilot in command must ensure that the aircraft is fitted with equipment required for the category of flight. For example; a turn co-ordinator is not required for a private flight however it is required for an AIRWORK flight.

In addition to this, the pilot in command must ensure that flight and engine instruments are functioning correctly before and during the take-off run.

Required equipment is fitted or carried and appropriately secured

The pilot in command must ensure that equipment required for the flight is serviceable and is fitted or carried on board for the flight. Required equipment may include:

  • ELT
  • Life jackets
  • Emergency equipment
  • Communication radios
  • Radio navigation aids
  • Aircraft internal and external lighting
  • Current navigation charts, documents and equipment

In addition to this, the pilot in command must ensure that radio equipment fitted to the aircraft is functioning correctly.

Security of doors and hatches

Immediately before taxi the pilot in command must ensure that all doors and hatches are secured.

Hatches may include: cargo, emergency, oil and inspection hatches.

Documents required to be carried on board

  • Flight crew licences
  • Flight crew medicals certificates
  • Photo ID
  • Aeroplane Flight Manual
  • Maintenance Release
  • Aircraft checklist(s)

Pilot in Command to ensure that the aeroplane is safe to fly in all respects

The pilot in command must carry out an inspection on the aircraft to ensure that it is safe for the planned flight. This inspection should include checking for un-reported defects and damage that may have occurred since last flown. Examples of damage that may have occurred without the previous pilot’s knowledge may include: propeller stone chips, flight control damage from strong wind, lighting failures, tyre damage and parking incidents. The windscreen should be inspected for cleanliness and cleaned as required.

Suitable for position for start up and taxi

The pilot in command must ensure that the aircraft is in a safe and suitable position for start up and taxi. Assessment of whether the aircraft may be safely started should include the minimum distance an aircraft engine may be operated from stated objects and that the propeller area is free from loose stones and long grass.





































External Inspection

  • Check that all external aircraft surfaces are completely free from frost, ice and damage
  • Check that external lighting is serviceable
  • Check that the aeroplane is in a suitable area to start up and taxi

Internal Inspection

  • Check that required equipment is on board and correctly stowed
  • Check that required documents are on board
  • Check that required instruments and equipment are fitted
  • Check that unoccupied seats have their seatbelts restrained
  • Check that loose articles are correctly stowed and secure

Immediately before taxiing for take-off and during take-off

  • Check that radio equipment to be used is functioning correctly
  • Check the flight controls for full and free movement
  • Check that instruments and engine indicators are correctly functioning


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