Teaching and Learning Flying - Private Pilot, Single-Engine Airplane

Preflight Preparation


  • Preflight preparation includes consideration of all factors that may reasonably have an impact on the safe conduct of a proposed flight
  • Four major areas of preflight preparation are
    1. Pilot
    2. Weather
    3. Airplane
    4. Planned flight (see Lesson Plan: VFR Cross-Country Planning)


    Thorough preflight preparation provides the essential background for exercising good judgment in making go/no-go decisions, and contributes substantially to safe and efficient flight.


    Private Pilot PTS:
      A. Explain
      • Pilot certificate
      • Medical certificate
      • Logbook or flight record
      • FCC station license
      • Airworthiness and registration certificates
      • Operating limitations, POH
      • Equipment list
      • Weight and balance data
      • Maintenance requirements and records
      B. Obtain and analyze
      • Weather reports and forecasts
      • Weather charts
      • PIREP's
      • SIGMET's and AIRMET's
      • NOTAM's
      • Wind shear reports
      C. Compute and analyze
      • weight and balance
      • performance
      D. Explain airplane systems and operation
      E. Visual inspection
      • Explain reasons for checking each item
      • Determine airplane is in condition for safe flight
    Commercial Pilot PTS: as above +
    • Commercial certificate privileges and limitations
    • Maintenance requirements applicable to flights for hire
    • More detailed and specific explanation of airplane systems
    Make "go/no-go" decision using all available information and good judgment


    To develop the student's knowledge, skill, and judgment in all major areas of preflight preparation to meet the FAA Practical Test Standards and to enhance the safety of flight.


  • Discuss the definition, safety factors, objectives, practical test standards, common errors and other elements of the four major areas of preflight preparation: 1. Pilot, 2. Weather, 3. Airplane, 4. Planned flight
    1. Pilot:
      • Personal checklist: "I'M SAFE" = not impaired by illness, medication, stress, alcohol, fatigue, emotion (AIM Ch 8)
      • Current Medical Certificate (FAR 67 & 61)
      • Pilot certificate, rating(s), endorsement(s), flight review, and recency of experience (FAR 61)
      • Personal pilot logbook or flight record
      • FCC station license and operator's permit
      • Personal limitations and comfort
    2. Preflight weather briefing
      • Thorough briefing is critical first step in flight planning
      • Various means of obtaining weather information
        • TV
        • Computer - DUATS
        • Radio
        • Telephone (PATWAS, Standard, Abbreviated, Outlook briefings)
      • Use of weather reports, forecasts, and charts
          METAR, TAF, FA, TWEB, WST, WS, WA, FD, CWA, AC, WW; Weather depiction, surface analysis, radar summary, significant weather prognostics, composite moisture stability, severe weather outlook, constant pressure analysis, tropopause data chart
      • Use of PIREP's, SIGMET's, AIRMET's, and NOTAM's
      • Recognition of aviation weather hazards to include wind shear
      • Factors to be considered in making a "go/no-go" decision
        • Pilot experience, currency, comfort
        • Need good alternative preflight plans to avoid:
          • T-storms (esp. lines or embedded)
          • fast-moving fronts
          • icing
          • fog
          • more than moderate turbulence
          • MVFR or IFR weather for VFR pilot
    3. Airplane
      • Documents ARROW:
        • airworthiness certificate
        • registration certificate
        • radio license
        • operating limitations
        • weight and balance information
        • Pilot's Operating Handbook (POH)
      • Maintenance requirements, tests, and records (FAR 43 & 91)
        • Annual inspection
        • Commercial operations (flight instruction): 100-hour check
        • Transponder: 24 mos
        • IFR in controlled airspace:
          • Static and altimeter: 24 mos
          • VOR: 30 days
      • Performance and limitations
      • Determination of weight and balance condition
      • Use of performance charts, tables and other data in determining performance in various phases of flight
      • Effects of atmospheric conditions on performance
      • Density altitude, wind, runway condition
      • Determine that the required performance is within the airplane's capabilities
      • Careful preflight inspection, following CHECKLISTS
    4. Planned Flight - see FAR 91.103 and Lesson Plan: VFR Cross Country Planning
        FAR 91.103 Preflight Action.
        Each pilot in command shall, before beginning a flight, become familiar with all available information concerning that flight. This information must include -
          (a) IFR or not in the vicinity of an airport:
          • Weather reports and forecasts
          • Fuel requirements
          • Alternatives available if the planned flight cannot be completed
          • Any known traffic delays of which the pilot in command has been advised by ATC
          (b) For any flight:
          • Runway lengths at airports of intended use
          • Takeoff and landing distance information:
          • Approved Airplane Flight Manual data or
          • Other reliable aircraft performance data applicable to the expected runway, aircraft and weather conditions
  • Coach student DUAT and telephone weather briefing
  • Help student determine and analyze airplane weight and balance and performance using POH
  • Demonstrate airplane preflight using checklist
  • Coach student airplane preflight using checklist


  • Pilot neglecting to "preflight the pilot"
  • Inadequate or incomplete weather briefing
    • Inform FSS specialist of intended route of flight, destination, departure time, estimated time enroute, if VFR only, aircraft type and identification, if student pilot
    • Ask specific questions
  • Failure to confirm that weight and balance are within tolerances
  • Failure to use a checklist or omitting checklist items
  • Neglecting pilot recency of experience with actual conditions when making go/no-go decision
  • Inadequate estimation of fuel requirement
  • Poor selection of and information gathering regarding alternates
  • Failure to confirm that airplane is capable of the required performance (consider density altitude)

Greg Gordon MD, CFII