By Ivan van der Schaar

With the pre-flight now completed we are ready to board our aircraft and get ready for our departure. I prefer to load the passengers before settling in myself. Once the aircraft is done being loaded I prefer to do a last quick walk around to ensure chocks are removed, tie downs released, all covers removed and all doors and panels closed.

Settle yourself down adjust the seat, seat belts and harnesses to your comfortable position. Once you are comfy check on your passengers and ensure they are strapped in and comfortable. Give them a run down on the planned flight, flight time, weather conditions which includes turbulence etc. and also vitally important operation of doors, emergency exits location of emergency equipment like fire extinguishers, first aid kits etc. Remember that an informed passenger is a happy passenger!

Now with all the briefings out of the way, the passengers settled and hopefully happy you can concentrate at the task at hand, i.e., flying and operating the aircraft. And this is where one of my personal pet hates rears its ugly head in the form of checklist use.

Most of our check and procedures are derived from Air force procedures. If you go and look at the Harvard checklist you will see the checks are very if not identical. Back in the day air force pilots did a huge amount of civilian instruction and the procedures were adapted for use in civilian aircraft. After all the years these procedures have stuck and are here to stay as they get taught over and over by our instructors.

The checklist is exactly what its name derives, a "checklist", it is not a "to do list". I do understand that not everybody is lucky enough to fly every weekend and therefor the checks become rusty. But I feel a flow pattern should be used. Like for instance before start checks. Do them from left to right top to bottom panel for panel. Once the flow is completed take the "checklist" out and read it ensuring that all the correct check has been done. i.e. When you read the checklist and for instance "Master switch - on". Check that it is switched on and continue with the checklist. Now is not the time to look for it and switch it on.

Also another thing about checklists is that it is designed for multi crew aircraft. So one pilot reads it and the other responds depending on the actual checklist being read. This frees one pilot to fly the aircraft whilst the other is busy with "admin". I have seen it so often that single crew pilots aka most of us in small aeries get so engulfed with reading a checklist that no one is monitoring the flight path of the aircraft. This has very interesting result in busy circuits.

When I teach new pilots I allow the use of checklist for the first couple of hours and there after I expect the aspirant pilot to know the checks. As I say, this is my personal take and do not want to interfere with your or your flight schools procedures.

Ok. Where was I, o ja. We are about to get the engine/s running with checks completed. Make sure the propeller area is clear and start cranking the engine/s. Folks the chances that the engine is ice cold and the first start of the day is good. No oil has been through the system, hence zero oil pressure. So please do take care to set the throttle approximately 1 cm open from closed. This once again depends on aircraft type and engine procedures. Al I am asking is not to have the sudden burst into life with a big roar and running at high RPM with almost no oil pressure and thick cold oil trying to be forced through little channel and even your oil cooler. As you can imagine this can significantly shorten engine life. If you did accidently start at a slightly higher RPM promptly reduce the engine RPM to the recommended round about 1000RPM for most engines.

With the engine running stable and settling down do your after start checks taking time to set frequencies, QNH etc. With these complete we are now read for taxi. Make contact with ATC and off we go. Remember there is no such thing as Taxi clearance. It is Taxi instructions. The apron and taxi ways are not secure areas and ATC doesn't have control over vehicles pedestrians and in some cases other aircraft. So ATC cannot ensure that you will be clear all the way. It is the responsibility of the pilot to ensure safe and clear taxi to the holding point. Good terminology would be: "Grand Central ABC request taxi instructions".

To commence the taxi, ensure the projected taxi path and areas are clear, reduce the throttle to idle, release the park brake or brakes, slowly increase the power until the aircraft starts moving. Again reduce power to idle and once the aircraft has moved an aircraft length gently and I mean gently test the brakes. The brakes can be tested so gently that your passengers should not even feel it. There is no need to bring the aircraft to a stop, especially not with screeching tyres and occupants hanging in their straps.

The reason for moving one aircraft length is that with aircraft parked in close proximity if one brake locks or binds the aircraft might swing and come to rest nestled into the side of your neighbour's aircraft with resulting fuming tempers and heaps of paperwork to follow.

Whilst we are taxying try not to use brakes. I know some aircraft require them to turn but only use them marginally. There is no need to ride the brakes and especially against power. Anticipate the terrain in other words gradients and stopping distances. My motto is: "Brakes are only for emergency". If you need to turn or stop, well that could lead to an emergency if not dealt with timeously.

Check the instruments in turns i.e. turning right, Ball to the left, Turn coordinator indicating right turn AH stable and ADF tracking and the opposite for the left turn. Try not to have other distractions as this could lead to disaster look at what happened to the BA 747 at Jo'burg.
These brakes get really hot if abused and I have witnessed on light aircraft brakes ceasing up because of heat especially on prolonged taxi such as Wonderboom or Lanseria.

Once we get to the holding point or run up area gently come to a stop and set the park brake.

I prefer to do the vital actions before the power checks. So in your own time go through your "Too Many Pilots" or the checks you use, once satisfied commence with the power checks.

I do the power checks last because: The engine gets more time to warm up, the plugs should now be clean off oil or fouling, the carburettor if fitted should be clear.

With happiness all around regarding take-off checks completed and engine purring we are now ready to take off.

Folks I am rather a fan of airmanship. Many of us are not privileged enough to own aircraft and has to rent from flight schools or are in fortunate positions to have access to private aircraft. To maintain these aircraft cost a huge amount of money. If each pilot can sharpen up procedures i.e. start up, look after propellers and brakes etc. We make it much easier for these schools and owners to maintain these aircraft and ensure they stay in good nick and ensure the longevity of these flight schools goodwill owners. They do such a great job to keep us flying so let's look after them…

Well. I suppose that is enough from me for one month until next month keep it safe and airmanshiply…

Ivan's Aviation Minute

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