Your Pre-Flight Inspection Checklist

a pilot performing a pre-flight inspection on an aircraft

Pre-flight inspections are important. They give you indicators as to the overall health of your aircraft and the visual cues help you assess whether or not it’s safe to fly. Every aircraft is different, and you’ll get to know yours over time. However, there are certain elements that you should check with every aircraft, before every flight. So we’ve put together a pre-flight inspection checklist for you to follow.

Why Pre-Flight Inspection Checklists Are Important

Some research shows that the pre-flight inspection originated around 1935. The concept was created by Boeing Corporation after a fatal crash of their prototype Boeing B-17 in Wright Field in Dayton, Ohio. After an investigation, it was found that the pilots hadn’t disengaged the gust locks, which stop control surfaces from moving in the wind while the plane is parked. With that discovery, Boeing management and engineers established a pre-flight checklist that would serve as a tangible reminder for pilots and create the safest take-off and flight experience.

Pre-flight inspection checklists are important because, just like the pilots from the 1935 Boeing flight, steps can be unintentionally forgotten or missed. Sometimes those missed steps simply cause minor inconveniences, but they can also sometimes be dangerous. Rather than rely on memory to check every single aspect of your aircraft before take-off, a pre-flight inspection checklist will help trigger your memory and ensure consistency with every flight.

Here’s what the FAA has to say about pre-flight inspections: “All pilots must ensure that they place a strong emphasis on ground operations as this is where safe flight begins and ends. At no time should a pilot hastily consider ground operations without proper and effective thoroughness. This phase of flight provides the first opportunity for a pilot to safely assess the various factors of flight operations including the regulatory requirements, an evaluation of the airplane’s condition, and the pilot’s readiness for their pilot in command (PIC) responsibilities.”

The purpose of the pre-flight inspection is to ensure that the airplane meets regulatory airworthiness standards and is in a safe mechanical condition prior to flight. The term “airworthy” means that the aircraft and its component parts meet the airplane’s type design or are in a properly altered configuration and are in a condition for safe operation. 

Every pre-flight inspection should begin with a walk-around of the aircraft and a visual inspection to look for wear, tear, or anything amiss. From that visual inspection, the pre-flight inspection checklist goes as follows. Of course, this is just an example of a pre-flight checklist on a typical single engine piston aircraft. Always follow the manufacturer’s recommendations for your aircraft.

​​CABIN

  1. Documents – A.R.R.O.W.
    1. ARROW stands for Airworthiness Certificate (your tail number must match the Airworthiness Certificate), Registration (this should be renewed every 3 years), Radio License (not needed unless flying internationally), Owner’s Manual (or Pilot’s Operating Handbook), Weight and Balance (the most current weight and balance so you can calculate out whether or not the aircraft is too nose heavy, tail heavy, or simply too heavy in general).
    2. All of these documents must be onboard prior to taking off.
  2. Control Lock – REMOVE
  3. Ignition Switch – OFF
  4. Avionics Switch – OFF
  5. Master Switch – ON
  6. Flaps – DOWN
  7. Fuel Quantity Indicator – CHECK
  8. Master Switch – OFF
  9. Fuel Selector Valve – ON BOTH

EMPENNAGE

  1. Empennage Surface – CHECK
  2. Baggage Door – CHECK
  3. Horizontal Stabilizer – SECURE
  4. Elevator – FREE & SECURE
  5. Rudder – FREE & SECURE
  6. Tail Tie-Down – DISCONNECT
  7. Lights & Antenna – CHECK
  8. ELT Antenna – CHECK

RIGHT WING

  1. Flap – FREE & SECURE
  2. Aileron – FREE & SECURE
  3. Lights & Wingtip – CHECK
  4. Leading Edge – CHECK
  5. Wing Tie-Down – DISCONNECT
  6. Main Wheel Tire & Brake – CHECK
  7. Fuel Quick Drain – SAMPLE
  8. Fuel Quantity – VISUAL CHECK
  9. Fuel Filler Cap – SECURE

NOSE

  1. Engine Oil – CHECK LEVEL 
  2. Strainer Drain – SAMPLE/CHECK
  3. Prop/Spinner – CHECK
  4. Air Filter – CHECK CLEAR
  5. Landing Light – CHECK
  6. Nose Strut/Tire – CHECK
  7. Static Port – CHECK OPEN

LEFT WING

  1. Main Wheel Tire & Brake – CHECK
  2. Fuel Quick Drain – SAMPLE
  3. Fuel Quantity – VISUAL CHECK
  4. Fuel Filler Cap – SECURE
  5. Pitot Tube Cover – REMOVE & CHECK
  6. Stall Warning Opening – CHECK
  7. Fuel Tank Vent – OPEN
  8. Wing Tie-Down – DISCONNECT
  9. Leading Edge – CHECK
  10. Lights/Wingtip – CHECK
  11. Aileron – FREE & SECURE
  12. Flaps – FREE & SECURE

Other Inspections You Should Know About

A pre-flight inspection isn’t the only inspection that ensures your aircraft is airworthy and safe. There are different types of aircraft inspections that are either mandatory or optional that keep your aircraft up-to-date and maintained. Those inspection schedules will vary based on your aircraft type, so it’s important that you reference your Operator’s Manual and talk with an aircraft MRO that you can trust.

At Winner Aviation, we’re here to help you get the most out of your aircraft and maintain its airworthiness. Talk with us about your maintenance schedule, or for more tips on a pre-flight inspection checklist that’s specific to your aircraft. 

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