PRE-FLIGHT BRIEFING AND INSPECTION
Know the different documents required on board to fly
Read weather reports (METAR and TAF) and notice to airmen (NOTAMs)
See an example of the interior and exterior checks required before flying in an aircraft
*- Update (2021) -> NOTAMs official name has changed to "Notice to Air Mission"
-Documents on Board-
In a similar way as in order to drive you need to have some required documents in the car. The same occurs when we want to use our aircraft.
An easy way to remember what documents are required to be on board is the acronym "ARROW":
- A -> Airworthiness Certificate -> A document that certifies that the aircraft model is in conditions to perform a flight. The responsibility to decide if the aircraft is airworthy lies in the PIC (pilot in command) that checks the aircraft in the pre-flight inspection
- R -> Registration Certificate -> A certificate validating the aircraft's registration
- R -> Radio Station Certificate -> A radio station license certifies that the aircraft has a working radio to communicate with the ATC (air traffic controllers) or other aircraft in the area
- O -> POH (Pilot Operating Handbook) -> A copy of the manual of the aircraft where the different procedires, limitations...etc are described
- W -> Weight & Balance -> Document done by the pilot before every flight where the effect of the total weight (fuel, passengers, pilot, baggage) is calculated to check that no aircraft limitation is being exceeded
Pilots are also required to carry some form of documentation in order to go flying:
1.- Pilots License -> LAPL (Light Airplane Pilot License), PPL (Private Pilot License), CPL (Commercial Pilot License) ...etc
2.- Medical Certificate -> Class 1, Class 2, Class 3
3.- Identification Document -> Passport, National Card ...etc
4.- Radio Telephony License -> Everyone who flies and uses a radio needs to have an RT license that certifies that the holder knows the proper phraseology and procedures to perform a safe communication with the ATC
-METARs and TAFs-
The weather briefing should contain current and forecast weather for the entire flight time and for all relevant airports and routes
Most airports have their weather station and produce weather reports and forecasts called METAR (Meteorological Terminal Air Report) and TAF (Terminal Aerodrome Forecast)
METARs typically come from airports or permanent weather observation stations. Reports are generated once an hour or half-hour at most stations, but if conditions change significantly at a determined location, a report known as a special (SPECI) may be issued.
-----Example: LELN 281600Z 27008KT 230V320 9999 FEW044 20/07 Q1022-----
This is an example of a METAR. You don't understand anything? Don't worry is easier than you think. Let's divide this example into parts:
- LELN -> ICAO code of the airport
- 281600Z -> Date (28 of the month) and hour of the report (16:00 UTC)
- 27008KT -> Wind direction (270º - from the west) and speed (8 kts)
- 230V320 -> Wind direction variable between 230º-320º
- 9999 -> Visibility (10km or more)
- FEW044 -> Few Clouds at 4400ft AAL(Above Airport Level)
- 20/07 -> Temperature/Dew Point
- Q1022 -> Air Pressure (1022 Hectopascals)
The arrangement used to describe the conditions is always the same:
-- Airport Identifier - Date and Time - Wind - Visibility - Special Conditions (rain, fog ... etc) - Clouds - Temperature and Dew Point - Atmospheric Pressure--
-There are different codes to describe different situations, here you have a complete list to start getting familiar with them:
TAFs are issued at least four times a day, every six hours, for major civil airfields: 0000, 0600, 1200, and 1800 UTC, and generally apply to a 24- or 30-hour period, and an area within approximately five 5 NM (9.3 km) from the centre of an airport.
-----Example: LELN 281400Z 2815/2915 VRB05KT 9999 SCT040 TX20/2815Z TN06/2905Z PROB40 TEMPO 2815/2820 27010KT-----
- As you can see it is very similar to the METAR but with some differences:
-2815/2915 -> Validity of the report (Day 28 - 15:00Z to Day 29 - 15:00Z)
-TX20/2815Z -> Maximum Temperature (20ºC reached at Day 28 - 15:00Z)
-TN06/2905Z -> Minimum Temperature (6ºC reached at Day 29 - 05:00Z)
-You can find the rest of the acronyms at the link that we mentioned earlier
A Notice To Airmen (NOTAM) is a notice containing information concerning the establishment, condition, or change in any aeronautical facility, service, procedure, or hazard, the timely knowledge of which is essential to personnel concerned with flight operations.
NOTAMs same as METAR and TAFs use codes to expose the information (date, duration, type of operation...etc). Now, we will see an example of a NOTAM and decode its basic information:
A) LEAS B) 2109010952 C) 2110062359
E) REF SUP 47/21 TAXIWAY C CENTRELINE LIGHTS OUT OF SERVICE: LIGHTS OPERATIVE. SUP CNL
-B6547/21 -> One letter to indicate the Series, a 4-digit NOTAM number followed by a bar (/) and two numbers to indicate the year (21-2021).
-NOTAMN -> Each letter after the word NOTAM has a meaning: N (New NOTAM), R (NOTAM replacing another) or C (NOTAM cancelling another)
-This is the "Q" (qualifier line), contains the following fields, each separated by a stroke:
-- FIR (LECM, Madrid FIR)
-- NOTAM Code, a 5 letter code (QXXXX), defined in Annexe 15 (There is a link at the end of this section). A full list of codes is included in ICAO document 8126 (Aeronautical Information Services Manual).
- IV -> Indicates that this is significant for IFR (I) and VFR (V) traffic.
- A -> Indicates scope, A (Aerodrome), E (en-route) or W (navigation warning)
- 000/999 -> Lower limits/upper limits expressed as flight level. (In this case, it has been left as the default as it is not applicable)
- 4334N00602W005 -> Indicates the coordinates (4334N00602W) and influence radius (005 - 5NM)
-A) LEAS -> Asturias Airport (ICAO Code)
-B) 2109010952 -> NOTAM start Date/Time (21/09/01 - 09:52Z)
-C) 2110062359 - >NOTAM end Date/Time (21/10/06 - 23:59Z)
-E) REF SUP 47/21 TAXIWAY C CENTRELINES LIGHTS OUT OF SERVICE: LIGHTS OPERATIVE. SUP CNL - Text of the NOTAM using ICAO abbreviations.
The pre-flight inspection is a series of interior and exterior checks performed to test the functionality of different controls and systems before we even enter the aircraft.
Every aircraft have its procedures to do the inspection (check your POH)
At the end of this lesson, there is a link to a PDF with the pre-flight inspection of the C172
In general terms, the pre-flight inspection starts with the internal checks (or cabin check):
-- 1st -> We make sure all systems are off (Battery/Avionics/Magneto)
-- 2nd -> We turn the battery on and start checking systems located inside the cabin that use electricity to work (Fuel gauges, amperemeter...etc)
-- 3rd -> We turn on systems located outside the cockpit that use electricity (lights/pitot heat and flaps)
-- 4th -> We do a quick walk-around to see that the lights and pitot heat and turned on
-- 5th -> Turn off the lights/pitot heat and the battery
After the interior checks are completed, we will do the exterior checks in a specific order (refer to the POH):
-- 1st -> Left side fuselage -> Check rivets condition and that the registration is legible
-- 2nd -> Tail -> Check elevator and rudder (free movement, limits reached and control column movement)
-- 3rd -> Right side fuselage -> Check condition (cracks, bends, rivets out...etc)
-- 4th -> Right-wing trailing edge -> Flaps (Slightly free movement and connections), ailerons (free movement, limits reached and control column movement)
-- 5th -> Right-wing leading-edge -> Check condition (cracks, bends, rivets out...etc)
-- 6th -> Right main wheel -> Tyre pressure and condition, brake pad and tyre alignment with the wheel)
-- 7th -> Engine (refer to your POH), propeller condition (make sure master and magnetos off), nose wheel (tyre pressure and condition, tyre alignment with the wheel) and suspension height
-- 8th -> Left-wing leading-edge -> Check condition (cracks, bends, rivets out...etc)
-- 9th -> Left-wing trailing edge -> Flaps (Slightly free movement and connections), ailerons (free movement, limits reached and control column movement)
-- 10th -> Left main wheel -> Tyre pressure and condition, brake pad and tyre alignment with the wheel)