Thursday, October 9, 2008


The accomplishment of a safe flight begins with a careful visual inspection of the airplane. The purpose of the preflight visual inspection is twofold: to determine that the airplane is legally airworthy, and that it is in condition for safe flight. The airworthiness of the airplane is determined, in part, by the following certificates and documents, which must be on board the airplane when operated. [Figure 2-1]
  • Airworthiness certificate.
  • Registration certificate.
  • FCC radio station license, if required by the type of operation.
  • Airplane operating limitations, which may be in the form of an FAA-approved Airplane Flight Manual and/or Pilot’s Operating Handbook (AFM/POH), placards, instrument markings, or any combination thereof.
Airplane logbooks are not required to be kept in the airplane when it is operated. However, they should be inspected prior to flight to show that the airplane has had required tests and inspections. Maintenance records for the airframe and engine are required to be kept. There may also be additional propeller records.

At a minimum, there should be an annual inspection within the preceding 12-calendar months. In addition, the airplane may also be required to have a 100-hour inspection in accordance with Title14 of the Code of Federal Regulations (14 CFR) part 91, section 91.409(b).

If a transponder is to be used, it is required to be inspected within the preceding 24-calendar months. If the airplane is operated under instrument flight rules (IFR) in controlled airspace, the pitot-static system is also required to be inspected within the preceding 24-calendar months.

The emergency locator transmitter (ELT) should also be checked. The ELT is battery powered, and the battery replacement or recharge date should not be exceeded.

Airworthiness Directives (ADs) have varying compliance intervals and are usually tracked in a separate area of the appropriate airframe, engine, or propeller record.

The determination of whether the airplane is in a condition for safe flight is made by a preflight inspection of the airplane and its components. [Figure 2-2] The preflight inspection should be performed in accordance with a printed checklist provided by the airplane manufacturer for the specific make and model airplane. However, the following general areas are applicable to all airplanes.

The preflight inspection of the airplane should begin while approaching the airplane on the ramp. The pilot should make note of the general appearance of the airplane, looking for obvious discrepancies such as a landing gear out of alignment, structural distortion, skin damage, and dripping fuel or oil leaks. Upon reaching the airplane, all tiedowns, control locks, and chocks should be removed.

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