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Two Basic Tips From Master CFI Raymond Brown

In 42 years of instructing, Ray Brown reports pilots beginning a chain of events that eventually found the weak link that eventually led to an accident.

His first tip refers to the preflight. One of the most important aspects of flight is accomplished on the ground, he says, but it is also one of the most neglected and rushed procedures that pilots devote time to. Only the pilot should pre-flight the aircraft: no friends, no fellow pilots, no cell phones, and no other distractions. Approaching the aircraft, a good visual look will indicate any noticeable discrepancies, leaking fluids, flat tires, low struts, and the like. Sit inside and make sure all the switches are in the "off' position. Turn on the power and check the fuel level; if at night turn on all the lights making sure they are working; follow your flight manual procedures for the interior inspection. Remember to turn off all electrical switches, including the master switch.

Begin the exterior inspection, again following the flight manual recommendations. Insure that a visual check of the fuel matches the indication on the gages and that oil is at the proper level. Remember the pitot and cowl covers, chocks, tiedown ropes. It's amazing, Brown says, how many pilot start to taxi and then discover to their embarrassment that they are not going anywhere. Only when the ground check is complete should passengers approach the aircraft. The second safety tip from Master CFI Brown is: properly use the checklist. Many pilots who fly the same aircraft start to believe that they know the written procedures so well that they can do the check list by memory. Bad mistake! Communication, passenger interruption, or other distraction can cause a normally competent person to deviate from a routine.

Brown continues that a pilot should create a "sterile" cockpit from the time the wheels start to turn until reaching cruising altitude, utilizing the printed check list at all appropriate times. Sterile means no conversations that do not pertain to the mission at hand. This same sterile condition should be in effect on descent to complete the mission of arriving at the destination safely. Reading the check list aloud helps to insure that safe arrival.

Too many pilots, Brown says, have found out the hard way that ignoring these two simple rules has turned an otherwise routine flight into an "I learned about flying from that" story. Some never lived to tell the story.

Master Instructor Ray Brown owns the Topgun Flight training center located at Burke Lakefront Airport in Cleveland, Ohio. He has instructed for 47 years. He has piloted hundreds of different aircraft. In the USAF he flew KC-97 tankers; for a major airline he flew Martin 404 and DC9 aircraft, and flies warbirds for a hobby. He has put more than 200 pilots into the air with certificates from private to ATP. He received the Cleveland FSDO general aviation flight instructor of the year award for 2005.

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