Pre-Flight Planning: Preparing for your flight
Many people who are unfamiliar with aviation think that the flight begins when the airplanes wheels lift of the ground. This is very untrue, unless the pilot wants to court disaster. The flight begins hours if not days before the pilot takes off, Pre-Flight Planning. A safe flight requires good planning and good contingency measures. Preparation includes: weather briefings, filing a flight plan, acquisition of NOTAMS, frequency and NAVAID channels, etc.
One of the most common causes of air crashes is poor pre-flight planning. It is common practice to find pilots going for a flight without prior planning or with little preparation. This lack of preparation may lead to one major disaster or a series of events that then culminate into one major mishap. What may seem like a simple omission can become a big catastrophe.
The following is part of a case study: Jim a pilot takes off from Savannah, Georgia at 1530Z headed for Miami, Florida. He expects to get there in two and a half hours. The weather looks pretty clear outside and he does not bother to get a full weather briefing. He does his basic checks and takes off without any unusual events. Two hours into the flight Jim notices a large cumulus cloud ahead. Realizing that it might be a major storm, he struggles to get a weather briefing over the radio. It is now getting dark outside and when he looks at his fuel gauges he notes that he has about an hour and ten minutes “worth” of flying left in the tanks. At the same time he gets the latest weather which indicates they have a level two hurricane blowing in roughly from the south to the north.
Jim has to turn around as all the airports and airstrips are all shut down in the south and southeast parts of Florida. He realizes that he has not selected any alternate airports in case of changed events. He struggles to get his charts out to get an alternate place to land. Jim has already turned back north as he knows that hurricanes blow in very quickly. He remembers that he saw small airstrip about 15 minutes ago. He manages to get the radio frequency and starts calling in. He gets no response over the radio. Jim has now started to panic and has about thirty-five minutes of fuel left. Luckily a small Fixed Base Operator (FBO) picks him up on radio and advices him to fly ten minutes west of his current location to the FBO. Jim lands safely with about twenty minutes worth of fuel left in his tanks. The FBO lets him know that the airstrip he was trying to land at has been closed for runway repairs.
Jim made several mistakes all through his flight, most of which seemed insignificant at the time but kept leading to a worse situation. He should have gotten a full weather briefing covering at least six-hours, he should have prepared alternate landing options, and he should have also checked the NOTAMS on this alternate locations. Another would have been fatal flaw was his fuel reserve. He should have made sure he had enough fuel to his location and the required reserve to his alternate. Remember that these situations can culminate in fatal endings. Be sure to perform all proper checks and fully prepare for the flight.