Somewhere just short of the runway you will perform a final check (called the run-up) of all systems by following your craft’s before-takeoff checklist. It’s your last chance to make sure everything is working smoothly before heading off into the wild blue yonder; where there are no service station clouds. Here’s a typical before-takeoff checklist:
- Make sure all cabin doors are closed and locked, and that all seat belts or shoulder harnesses are fully secured.
- Because you will add power to the propeller, look behind your craft to make sure that doing so won’t spray loose gravel or other hard objects onto people or other planes.
- Set the parking brake, if equipped with one. Alternately, push on the brake pedals to keep the plane from moving during run-up.
- Push in the throttle to the manufacturer’s recommended run-up RPM, typically about 60 percent of full power.
- Watch the engine tachometer as you check both magnetos for a couple seconds each. Your operating handbook specifies how much power you could lose when the engine is run with one magneto turned off. When done, make sure the engine is running on both magnetos.
- If your engine has carburetor heat, watch the engine tachometer as you pull it on and verify that the RPM drop is what the manufacturer recommends.
- Check each engine instrument to make sure it’s running in the green (okay) range.
- Pull the throttle back to the idle speed, referring to the tachometer and as suggested by the operating handbook.
- If equipped, set the navigation and communications radios.
- Check the fuel quantity against what you discovered during your preflight inspection of the fuel tanks.
- Check each of the flight instruments to make sure they are operating correctly.
- If a heading indicator is installed, set it to match the magnetic compass reading.
- Move the flight controls to make sure they move freely and appropriately, looking back to see how the ailerons and, if you can see them, elevators and rudder respond.
- Set the mixture control depending on the density altitude.
- If a carburetor heat is installed, place it in the full cold position or as recommended by the operating handbook.
- Make sure the fuel selector(s) is set to the correct position for takeoff.
- Set the flaps (if equipped) and the elevator trim to the takeoff positions.
- Get mentally ready to move forward and take off. Also have an alternate plan in mind if the takeoff isn’t to your liking.
That wasn’t so hard. You’ll soon discover that it takes much more time to read these steps than to actually do them. Your craft’s operating handbook will have specific checklists for preflight inspection, starting, taxing, and pretakeoff processes. Practice them. Memorize them. But don’t depend on your memory. Use your checklists to help ensure that you and your future passengers all have enjoyable and safe flights.