Preflight check 123ABCD

by Had Robinson

This simple routine was developed by master pilot and instructor, Chad Bastian.  It is good for both PPG and PG.  To reinforce its importance and help your memory, it should be said out-loud e.g. "One chin strap" etc.

A preflight check is done just before setting up in the launch zone minutes before flight.  All the gear is in place and the pilot is in his harness.

General equipment check

However, the preflight is no substitute for a general equipment check which should be done when unpacking equipment after arriving at launch.  This type of check looks for problems that the preflight check cannot such as tears in the glider material, harness damage, tangled speed system, harness straps wrapped around the foot strap, or loose reserve pins (the most common problem).

This pilot discovered his loose reserve before setting up.  Having the reserve deploy right after launch or just before landing could result in a serious accident.  The red reserve handle is such an inviting way to grab a harness that might be in the way by those who have no idea what it really is....

loose reserve pins

This photo of a knotted brake line was taken immediately after the pilot hit the ground, out of control, after a botched launch.   He had failed to do a proper preflight and it could have cost him his life.  As it was, he was injured but not seriously.

failure to do a proper preflight check

A tandem instructor in southern California died because he failed to complete a simple preflight check, like this one.  Then there is this terrifying flight where the pilot in command failed to clip in his passenger.  The passenger escaped death by a hair....  This preflight video from USHPA is helpful for all pilots.  It includes general questions each pilot should ask himself before launch.  It is long, however.

The preflight

All pilots must memorize this preflight check routine (or an equivalent) to complete their training courses with Southwest Airsports.

1.  One chin strap

Place your fingers between the strap and your chin and be sure that the buckle is fastened.  The helmet is useless if it comes off.

2.  Two karabiners

These are the two karabiners that connect your glider to your harness.  Grasp them with each hand and squeeze them to be sure the gates are locked!

3.  Three straps

There are two legs straps and one gut strap.  Put your hands under each of them to be sure they are securely fastened!

A.  Air

All pilots should sit at launch for at least 15 minutes and observe the conditions.  Are they within your comfort level?  Is it cross or gusty?  If you are not 100% at peace about the conditions DO NOT LAUNCH!  It could be your last flight....

B.  Being

As trained soldiers know, your mental state is critical to your safety.  Are you 100%?  Not too happy, not upset, not tired?  If you have been using drugs or alcohol, flying is easy and fun but you could get killed in the process....

C.  Clear

a. IN FRONT  No pilots flying across your launch path or nearby?  Any obstacles?  Hitting trees at launch happens nearly everyday in Roldanillo and Valle de Bravo.  I still cannot understand why pilots attempt a launch hoping that the glider will eventually inflate enough to fly.  It is not safe nor comfortable.
b. LINES  Are all your lines clear?  No knots? No tangles?  The fine lines on some gliders are particularly hard to see and it's another reason why forward inflations can be dangerous if you have not CAREFULLY checked your lines prior to launch, especially the upper cascades.  Are the brake toggle lines clear and functioning through the pulleys on the risers?  Pilots should extend the brake line a foot or so and follow the line carefully back to the pulley.  You cannot control your glider at launch if the brake lines are tangled, knotted, or caught in something.

D.  Radio check

Making sure "da radio" works and you are able to communicate with other pilots is just as important as the other checks.  A pilot I know would be alive today if she had known how to properly operate her radio.  It would help all pilots if they would get their amateur radio license (in order to legally use a 2 meter FM radio).  It is so easy and local hams are always happy to help.  Using a radio is way more than just "hitting a button".  The American Radio Relay League has this helpful resource for those who want to become licensed.  You will want to study the section on the Technician Class license.  To find a training class near you, complete this form.