Starting and Taxiing Your Aircraft

Starting and Taxiing Your Aircraft

How to start and taxi your sport plane depends somewhat on the model. However, most general aircraft have similar starting procedures that we cover here. Your plane's operating handbook and your instructor will offer variations, but the following should get you started.

Starting an aircraft, especially a simple aircraft, is easy. It's a little more complex than starting a car, but not by much. You'll soon have the process down and do it smoothly in a matter of seconds. Here's a typical list:

  1. Adjust seat, and latch your seatbelts.
  2. Test the brakes and press them down. If your craft has a parking brake, move it to the "off" position.
  3. Make sure all circuit breakers are in place and electrical equipment is off.
  4. Move the fuel tank selector valve(s) to the correct position for takeoff.
  5. If your engine is equipped with a manual primer, prime the engine per the operating handbook (typically two to five pushes on the primer for cold engines), then lock the primer. Some airplanes use an electric primer and some do not use a primer at all.
  6. Push the carburetor heater, if your airplane has one, all the way in (cold).
  7. Place the throttle to the specified starting position.
  8. If a mixture control is installed, set it to the correct position for starting. After starting, the mixture control might have to be adjusted for density altitude.
  9. Turn the master switch to "on."
  10. Turn the ignition switch to "start" and release once the engine starts (just like on a car). If your craft doesn't have a starter you'll need someone to turn the prop for you; make sure it's someone who knows how to do it safely.
  11. Check the oil pressure to make sure it's within the green range within 30 seconds; if not, shut down the engine and investigate. Remember, two-cycle engines do not have an oil-pressure gauge.
  12. Check the ammeter for proper operation if your airplane has a generating system.
  13. Turn on the anticollision light and radio if your airplane has this equipment.
  14. Verify that flaps, if equipped, are up.

Taxiing an aircraft is different from driving a car, primarily because power isn't in the wheels but in the propeller. The prop has to pull (or push) your plane along, and it takes a nudge to get it moving, especially if your plane is parked on grass.

Here's the typical process for taxiing at an uncontrolled airport:

  1. Push the throttle in enough to get the plane moving forward, then reduce power so it is moving at the pace of a fast walk.
  2. Reduce the power to idle and gently test the brakes for smooth, even grip, then apply enough power to continue taxiing.
  3. Use the rudder pedals to direct the aircraft nose, stepping on the pedal on the side you want to go. Make sure you don't inadvertently hit the brake pedal.
  4. As needed, apply the brakes to make a tight turn on a taxiway. Don't press hard and continuously on the brakes.
  5. Watch the heading and turn indicators (if equipped) to make sure they're responding to your movements of the aircraft controls.
  6. Continue taxiing toward the appropriate runway (which depends on the wind direction) and stop short of the runway for the run-up (your final check before takeoff).

As you taxi you could be facing a head-, cross-, or tailwind that, if excessive, can push your little plane around. To counteract this, use your control yoke or stick to deflect the wind's power on your wings. For headwinds and frontal crosswinds, turn the yoke or stick fully toward the wind and keep the elevator neutral. For tailwinds and rear crosswinds, turn the yoke or stick fully away from the wind with the elevators down (controller away from you).

First Flying Lesson: Engine Start, Taxi, Engine Runup, and Takeoff (Video)