Pre-Flight Safety Checklist

This is part of the pre-flight safety section and represents the safety portion of the pre-flight safety checklist. This is mainly going to pertain to the prop in regards to the safety but will have a few other areas that are in this list.

Prior to/during the Pre-Flight Inspection.

  • Always keep head/arms, feet, hands or anything away from the path of the propeller
  • If/When moving prop, use full hands and not fingers
  • Engine is off
  • Key is not in ignition and is in plain sight
  • Throttle is pulled all the way out  – in the closed position

Pre-Flight Inspection Occurs

After Pre-Flight Inspection & before starting the engine

  • Ensure everything is clear from the prop
  • Visually inspect the surrounding area for people, animals, equipment, etc
  • Yell “Clear Prop” & wait enough time for a response
  • Fasten seat belt and safety harness







After the First Flight

For new pilot trainees, navigating and landing back at the airport may be a little much after the first day of flying. In order to assure safety, the flight instructor will guide the trainee back towards the airport before taking control of the aircraft.

The flight instructor will resume control of the airplane so that they can demonstrate the descent and “before landing checklist”. The instructor will land the airplane and perform the after landing checklist before taxiing back to the hangar or parking spot.

Just as there is a starting engine checklist, there is also a Securing Airplane Checklist which should be performed to ensure that there is no damage to the aircraft or its electrical components.

Electrical equipment should be shut off before shutting down the engine and the engine is shut off by pulling the mixture all the way back to the “idle cut off” position. The ignition key is NOT used to shut down the engine.

Postflight Procedures

After parking the airplane, the Hobbs and tach times will need to be logged and any discrepancies will need to be noted such as damage, non working electrical or mechanical equipment or anything else that should be notated regarding the equipment.

Hobbs Meter – records the length of time the engine battery master switch is on and the engine oil pressure is greater than 20 PSI. This is what goes into the logbook and is usually how the aircraft billing hours are accounted for.

Tachometer -records the total number of revolutions of the engine and converts them to hours based on standard rotation speeds. The tach time is used as a tracking time for maintenance records and time periods.

Airplane Parking & Securing

Before exiting the aircraft, make sure that all electrical items are shut off and especially that the master switch is turned off which will help to prevent the battery from draining. A dead battery will not be fun for the next pilot.

Also, it may be customary to leave the airplane with the parking brake OFF just in case the aircraft needs to be moved or towed for a variety of reasons.

Small aircrafts such as the Cessna 172 Skyhawk do not necessarily need to be hooked up to a tow bar and tug to be towed into position. These aircraft may be moved by hand and pushed back into their parking spot. When pushing, there are several things to keep in mind.

  • A tow bar should be used to push an airplane
  • You can push on the struts to move the airplane but not vertical or horizontal surfaces
  • you can push and pull on the blades of the propeller if necessary but only close to the hub.
  • do NOT push or pull on the tail of the airplane
  • do NOT push on the cowling or spinner as the thin metal can be damaged easily.

Once parked, the airplane needs to be secured with tie downs and chocks against the wheels. This is the time to install any protective covers as well including pitot tube covers and control lock or rudder gust lock.

Final Procedures

To finish off, the aircraft may need to be refueled and oil replaced as necessary or required as part of the aircraft usage.

Filling the fuel tanks at the last flight of the day will minimize water condensation in the fuel tanks overnight but regardless, the refueling should be determined based on the aircraft usage requirements.

Lock the doors & turn in the keys.

Update training records including flight ands ground time.

Discuss the flight with the instructor and ask any questions regarding the training.


For simplicity and easy reference, I wanted to have a place with all of the various checklists. This page will serve as a placeholder for the various list of checklists that will be needed.

Turning – Climbing – Descending

When flying an airplane, it is important to know how to climb turn and descend the aircraft. This section will help understand hot properly climb, turn and descend the aircraft while in flight.

You always want to be scanning the area around you in the air to prevent collision with other aircrafts and before you start to maneuver, you want to be sure to be appropriately situated and setup in your seat in the cockpit.

Prior to starting any maneuvering techniques, whip out the handy dandy pre-maneuver checklist to ensure that you cover all of your bases.

The Pre-Maneuver Checklist will include:

  • make sure the landing light is on to serve as a visible signal to other aircraft as well as to serve as a collision avoidance aid.
  • your mixture control should be full rich as appropriate to ensure maximum power of the aircraft. There are special instructions for high altitude areas which will be addressed later.
  • make sure you are at a safe altitude which is more than 1500 feet Above Ground Level (AGL).
  • once again, verify that the area around you is clear.

Before turning, find an outside reference point and note the heading you are on.

Before starting your turn, make sure to look again keeping in mind that you are flying in 3D space and will need to look left and right, above and below as well as  in front and behind you. One way to help identify any traffic in your blind spots is to raise the wing toward the direction of the turn and look out in that direction.

Looking out, visually determine about a 30 degree bank and note the angle between the instrument panel and the horizon.

Move the control wheel (yoke) in the direction that you want to turn use a small amount of rudder as needed to help complete the turn.

The wings on an aircraft can create a blindspot in some areas so it may be necessary to slightly raise the wing on the side which you will be turning in order to ensure the area is clear. You will want to look for traffic all around you including above and below your aircraft.

Two ways to make clearing turns

Turning can be accomplished in one of two methods. Regardless of the method, turning should be made using a 30 degree bank.

The first method of making a clearing turn is by using a 180 degree turn in one continuous motion.

The second clearing turn is essentially two 90 degree turns where the first 90 degree turn is made to the left, followed by a second 90 degree turn to the right which is heading back to your original direction.

Once these clearing turns are made and you have established that you are clear the air-to-air frequency should be set to 122.75 so that you can announce your position.

You will announce your position which will include the following:

  • your position in relation to a known landmark on the ground
  • your present altitude and your intentions whether it is “doing slow flight” or “climbing”, etc.

Using the Rudder in a Turn

Rudder helps counteract the adverse yaw which is caused by an increase in the drag on the down aileron from wind pressure. When the ailerons are deflected, adding rudder will correct the adverse yaw otherwise the nose will want to do in the opposite direction of the turn.

Rolling out of a turn

Start taking the bank out at a heading around half of the bank angle ahead of the heading that you want to stop turning at.

To get out of the turn, the control wheel will need to be turned in the opposite direction that you used to make the turn and also rudder will need to be used as well in the same direction as the control wheel to keep the nose from yawing. Back pressure should be relaxed as the bank angle decreases since it is being less affected by air movement.

When the wings are level, the aircraft will stop turning and you will essentially balance out the rudder pressure and aileron pressure to keep from turning in the opposite direction.

360 Degree Turns

When making a 360 degree turn, it is common to feel a turbulence bump which is your aircraft returning into your own path pod air movement (wake).


In small aircraft such as the Cessna 172 Skyhawk, most climbs are made with the throttle at the fully forward for maximum engine power. Your pitch should be at the climb attitude which is about 10 degrees on most airplanes. Visually identify the pitch attitude and confirm the proper climb attitude using the flight display and trim as necessary to relieve pressure on the control wheel.

Once the desired altitude is reached, gently press forward on the control wheel to pitch down the nose of the airplane to level flight and wait for the airspeed to build up. Once the airspeed is built back up, pull the throttle back to the cruise power RPM settings usually around 2200-2300 RPM and once again trim as necessary.


When descending, the engine will not need to be as powerful, so by pulling back on the throttle to reduce the engine RPM and power, the nose will naturally pitch down and pushing the control wheel in will allow you to pitch even further. Once at around 5 degree nose down pitch,  you can trim to maintain descent position.

Once you have descended to the desired altitude, you will use the control wheel and ease back to level flight altitude and then push the throttle in to add engine power back up to the cruising RPM of 2200-2300 RPM.

Flying Straight and Level

Now that you are in the air, the next step is to ensure that you continue flying straight and level. In straight and level flight, you maintain the same heading and altitude.

Straight flight can be defined as “not turning”.

Level flight can be defined as “holding altitude” in which you are not climbing or descending.

There are essentially four fundamentals of flight in which everything an airplane does is one of the following four:

  • Climbs
  • Turns
  • Descents
  • Straight and Level Flying

Cruising is associated with straight and level flying and just like any other task there is a checklist for cruising once you have reached your desired altitude.

2300 RPM is the most common cruise power setting for a lot of light airplanes, however generally, cruise power will be set anywhere between 2100 -2700 RPM.

At this point, your elevator trim control should be adjusted and set.

Mixture control should be lean as appropriate.

Landing light should be off as appropriate.

From Climb to Straight and Level Flying

The next step is to level off which maintains a consistent altitude and  heading. The first step is to set the pitch of the airplane first by placing the nose near the horizon.

Some helpful tips to use for leveling off are as follows:

    • start the transition from a climb attitude to a straight and level attitude at about 10% of the vertical speed, so if you are leveling off from a 500 feet per minute climb, start using the nose down to the level flight position approximately 50 feet before the altitude you want to level off at.
    • wait for the speed to build up to approximately cruise speed
    • reduce the power to the desired RPM setting which is approximately 2200-2300 RPM for cruise speed.
    • adjust trim as needed.
    • Lean the mixture as appropriate
APT – Power Management

Attitude – adjust the attitude for the desired airspeed using the control wheel and let the airspeed come to its target airspeed

Power – Se the power to the recommended setting or whatever power is required.

Trim – Set the aircraft trim for greater efficiency, more comfort for passengers and easier on the pilot since it will be essentially hands-off flight.

Getting the Trim Set

The aircraft should be first flown with primary controls then the trim is used to receive pressure from the controls. First, set the pitch attitude for level flight and then set the trim, keeping in mind that if the nose wanders up or down, the nose will need to be reset with the control wheel and the the trim set until desired.

Flying Straight and Level

There are a few key things you can do to ensure the aircraft stays on a straight and level flight path. First you should pick a point on the horizon to focus as your horizon point. Not too close or you will reach the point and have to choose another point. Once you have picked your point, ensure that the aircraft continues headed towards that point by making small left or right turns as necessary. You will want to also ensure that the wing its are the same distance from that point both left and right and ensure that the wings remain level.

Holding Altitude

Just as you picked a point in the horizon previously, you will point the nose at a position on the horizon and use something on the aircraft such as the cowling, angle of the bottom of the wings to the horizon etc.., as a reference point.

Check the attitude indicator to confirm and ansi check the altimeter to ensure you are not climbing or descending. You will want to visually memorize this visual image and while keeping your focus outside the cockpit, make sure the angle of the right and left wing tips are consistent.

Making Corrections

Corrections the need to be made in flight should be done so in small amounts to ensure that the flight remains straight and level.


Generally, small aircraft are designed to be stable in pitch and the aircraft should always return to its original state & if the control wheel gets bumped, it will return to the pitch attitude that it was originally trimmed for.

The Tail and Nose work opposite up & down.

Pitch Up – More Raises

Pitch Down – Nose Lowers

Eventually, after a couple of oscillations, the aircraft will return to straight and level which is called “stability” and you should be able to fly a well trimmed airplane “hands off” briefly and maintain heading by simply using the rudder pedals.




Primary Flight Display

Flight Instruments on the PFD (Primary Flight Display) represent a ton of information. In order to better understand this information and for a quick reference, I have listed them below:

Attitude Indicator

Horizon Line

    • Yellow triangle represents the nose
    • Yellow lines represent the wings
    • Blue above the horizon line is the sky
    • Brown below the horizon line is the ground.

Horizontal White Lines

    • Show degrees up and degrees down in
    • Big lines are in 10 degree increments
    • Smaller white lines in between representing 5 degree increments

Semi-Circular Scale at the Top 

    • Degrees of Roll
    • Bottom triangle points on the degree of roll which show you your bank
    • Increments of 10-20-30-45-60
Turn Coordinator



From Ground to Air

Runway Hold Position

After engine run-up will come taxiing up to the runway where you will stop on the solid side of the runway hold-short of the double yellow lines until cleared to proceed by ATC (Air Traffic Control).

Lights, Camera, Action

We are not filming a movie here, but this is a good way to remember to the next sequence of events that are taking place.

As far as lights go, the landing and/or taxi lights should be turned on for takeoff, landing or performing maneuvers which will allow greater visibility to the tower and other aircraft. These lights will help to identify your aircraft to help avoid collisions as well.

The camera reference pertains to the transponder which your radar return more visible in addition to supplying information to Air Traffic Control (ATC).

When setting the transponder, the standard Visual Flight Rules transponder code is 1200 or whatever is assigned by ATC. Set transponder to Altitude mode and keep in mind that some transponders will automatically set the transponder to 1200 above 35 knots.

The last part, action, refers to the air to fuel mixture which you will set prior to takeoff. To ensure that the correct mixture is set, the normal setting will be fully pushed in or the “full rich” position although if operating at a higher altitude/higher elevation airport, this mixture may need to be changed appropriately.

To the Runway

before taxiing on the runway, it is important that you are clear to takeoff. If operating at an airport without a control tower, you will need to call and state your intentions over the common traffic advisory frequency also known as CTAF.

For airports with an operating control tower, the process is a little different. You will call and receive a clearance to takeoff. The controller may respond in various ways for example:

line up and wait – this is not the final clearance to take off but with this command, you will taxi on to the runway while you line up on the centerline and hold for final takeoff clearance.

Once you have received the clearance from the tower and/or announced your intentions on the CTAF to take off, you will need to visually look towards the final approach to make sure there are no incoming aircrafts. Once you have made the determination that is it clear, you verbally say “Clear Final”.

Once you have visually and verbally confirmed that the runway is clear from incoming aircrafts, you are ready for take off so proceed to taxi onto the runway and line up straight on the centerline which will give you maximum space on either side for takeoff.

Make sure the nose wheel is straight which will help to prevent making a sharp turn.

Next, come to a complete stop which will allow you to focus you efforts on taxiing first then full efforts on takeoff second. There may be times when ut us necessary to takeoff without stopping, known as a rolling stop.

With your heels on the floor and the backs of your feet on the rudder pedal, you will be sure to keep your feet off the brakes.

This next step involves many tasks simultaneously and quickly as you will be giving the aircraft full power, checking gauges and determining planning to abort if any issues. Let’s continue.

  • Give the airplane maximum power by pushing the throttle fully while keeping your hand on the throttle for takeoff roll. This ensures that should you need to about takeoff, you hand will already be positioned in the correct spot to pull the throttle back.
  • Very quickly and briefly, glance at the engine instrument panel to ensure that your instruments are “in the green” which will include the oil pressure and  RPM. If anything is not correct this is the time to about the takeoff and reduce engine power by pulling back on the throttle.

As a training resource, there may be helpful verbal announcements that will help to ensure these steps are visually and communicatively performed.

By saying “Takeoff” when the throttle is fully pressed giving the aircraft full power, you acknowledge that you have in fact given the aircraft full power.

Next, by saying “gages green”, this is an indication that you have in fact looked at the gauges to determine that they are green and thus confirmed their status.

Finally, once you get the first airspeed indication, the saying “airspeed alive” will convey the message that the aircraft is in movement, gaining speed and preparing to take flight.

Steering – now that the aircraft is moving forward at full engine power your attention will be focussed on ensuring that the aircraft remains centered on the runway while gaining the speed necessary for liftoff. There are several things to keep ion mind including the following:

  • As opposed to looking down immediately, focus your attention down the runway which will also help to determine how far you are going and where the end of the runway is.
  • The way to keep the aircraft on the centerline is by the use of the rudder pedals in which you will need to make small adjustments to as the aircraft moves forward. in the Cessna 162 Skycatcher, this is accomplished via slight brake pressure at the beginning of the takeoff roll. Both heels should eb on the floor once the rudder is effective for steering.
  • In order to help stay straight, look halfway down the runway which will make steering easier and your left to right corrections will be smaller.
  • It is common for the aircraft to veer to the left during takeoff due to the movement of the propeller spinning. For this reason, there may need to be more right rudder pressure early in the takeoff and keep in mind that the rudder will be more effective as the speed increases which is due to to more airflow over the rudder surface.
  • At approximately 55 knots in the Cessna 172 Skyhawk, the controls will become effective and the control wheel (yoke) will be used for takeoff by gradually pulling back. This pulling back of the control wheel will control the elevator and the pulling back action will lift the elevator and provide the lift necessary for takeoff. This will begin your climb and establish the “climb attitude” Caution should be taken not to forcefully pull the control wheel back but rather allow the aircraft to fly itself off the runway.

Climb Attitude – Now that the aircraft has “taken off” and began its climb, you will want to ensure that the aircraft is climbing at the proper pitch attitude. This will be determined by the attitude indicator as well as the airspeed indicator where in a Cessna Skyhawk 172 with a G1000, the best possible climb rate is just below the 10 degree mark.

By using the control wheel (yoke) you can control the desired pitch attitude  in order to accelerate to the highest altitude which will be determine based on either of the following:

Best Angle of Climb – Vx – best angle of climb at 62 knots which will get to the highest altitude in the shortest distance

You may need a higher altitude if trying to clear a mountain or tall trees at the end of the runway.


Best Rate of Climb – Vy – best rate of climb at 74 knots which will reach the highest altitude in the shortest amount of time.

At slower speeds, the aircraft will have a left leaning tendency with higher power applied. This will result in a feeling of a leaning or sideways sensation without proper rudder pressure.

There is a common need to apply more right rudder and you can visually view the “turn coordination indicator” on top of the PFD (Primary Flight Display) to see if the rudder is “coordinated” or not.

After Initial Takeoff

Once you have successfully “taken off” you will want to ensure that you are continuing in a straight line which is extremely important when operating an aircraft on multiple runways.

Although you may be lined up straight with the runway during takeoff, crosswinds and inadequate right rudder pressure could allow the aircraft to drift off centerline. Looking back over your shoulder momentarily will allow you to visualize the runway and to determine if corrective action is needed to keep the aircraft on centerline. This will help to minimize the potential for a collision.

Flying is a series of constant corrections in which you will apply pressure to the controls to move the aircraft to the desired position. It is best to make a correction and then wait for the reaction before correcting again as needed.

Using the Elevator Trim

The elevator trim control will help to relieve the control pressures in order to make flying easier by holding the controls in a manner that keeps the proper pitch altitude.

For the Cessna 162 Skycatcher, the only way to set the elevator trim is to use the electric switch which is located on the control stick.

For the Cessna 172 Skyhawk, there are actually two ways to set the elevator trim. There is a “trim wheel” located next to the pilot right knee in the lower center pedestal as well as an electric switch which is located on the control wheel (yoke).

Although this is not the same as the cruise control in your car, there are some similarities in that before you set the elevator trim, you should first set the desired power (RPM) as well as the pitch whether it is nose up, nose down or level on the horizon.

Once you have the aircraft in the attitude you want, visually compare the horizon with the attitude indicator to ensure they are consistent. Using the control wheel and by feeling the pressure, you will adjust the nose trim based on how much pressure needs to be applied to maintain the desired attitude.

Pushing forward = more nose down trim

Pulling back = more nose up trim

After Takeoff Routine

Checklists are a part of every Pilot’s routine so once you have taken off, it is time to go through the after-takeoff-checklist, which should be started around 1000′ above ground level.

The after-takeoff checklist should include the following:

  • confirm that the flaps are at 0 degrees
  • establish a cruise climb airspeed or around 70-80 knots which will make for a shallower climb gradient which allows for a better forward vision as well as to allow more cooling air to the engine.

Just as always, you should be scanning paying attention for any other aircrafts on your climb out and it is a good idea to lower the nose occasionally to get an unobstructed view of the outside.

This should be done about every 500 feet and if needed, make shallow turns as needed> Remember this is 3d space so in addition to looking looking left and right, you should also look up and down, forward and backwards.

It will help to be aware of the normal traffic pattern and where traffic normally enters and exits the traffic pattern to avoid other aircrafts.

Always be on the lookout for other aircraft and note their traffic patterns.












Taxi Ground Procedures

Once the engine is started the throttle should be set to 1000 RPM which is the general power setting while on the ground. This is indicated at the top of the information display on the RPM gauge known as the “Tachometer” which has an analog as well as digital reading.

If you haven’t adjusted your seat prior to starting up the engine or if you forgot as part of the pre-flight checklist, now is the time to adjust the seat to ensure you have visibility over the engine cowling. If you didn’t read the “Preparing for Flight” information and didn’t remember to bring your seat cushion, you should probable read through the IM SAFE acronyms to ensure you are fit to fly as having a set cushion if needed and adjusting the seat should have already been taken care of before the engine has started. Regardless, let’s move on.

For the Cessna 162 Skycatcher, the brakes control the steering so you will use the brakes on the rudder pedals. On the Cessna 172 Skyhawk it is the rudder pedals since the rudder is what will make the airplane turn while on the ground. Regardless, on both of these aircraft, steering is done via the foot pedals.


The correct foot position for taxiing is for your heels to rest on the floorboard while the balls of your feet are positioned on the rudder pedals. In order to slow down and/or turn, raise your toes up to press on the brakes while your right hand remains on the throttle.

Now that we know how to taxi, there is more to do before actually taxiing. For starters, you should study the airport diagram so that you know where the heck you are and where you are supposed to go. There are taxi designations as well as “hotspots” where it is easy to be confused and to potentially enter a runway unintentionally.

You may have to cross runways while en-route to your takeoff runway and there may be parallel runways, so these are some of the things you should note before taking off.

You cannot begin to taxi until you have received your taxi clearance. When receiving the taxi clearance, it is important to record the instructions so that they are not only easy to read but easy to read back accurately. Additionally, you will have a visible reference that is quickly accessible. Always make sure to confirm your route on the airport diagram to clear up any confusion or doubt before beginning to move the aircraft.

Beginning to Taxi

Once everything is ready to taxi, you want to take a look outside including both to the left and right to ensure there are no obstructions or obstacles and that the wings & tips are clear to proceed.

The next step is a brake check where you begin by pushing the throttle in just enough to start moving forward then immediately reduce the throttle to the idle position and apply both brakes together in a gentle and smooth fashion.

This is the brake check and as long as the aircraft slows strain ahead, you know the brakes are working properly. If the aircraft doesn’t slow down, the brakes are not working properly. If the aircraft turns to the left or right, then this is an indication that one or more of the brakes may not be working properly.

For training where there is an instructor and student, the instructor will check their brakes as well provided there is a “positive exchange of flight controls”

Positive Exchange of Flight Controls

The concept of “positive exchange of flight controls” is to ensure that there is a clear understanding between the instructor and trainee as to who is flying the aircraft. This is not only for safety but also to avoid any misunderstanding or confusion as to which party is responsible for the aircraft.

There is a simple three step process for appropriately exchanging flight controls. When the student has the flight controls and wishes to exchange to the instructor,

    1. the student will say:

“You have the aircraft”

2. In order to confirm the exchange of flight controls, the instructor will respond with confirmation by saying:

“I have the aircraft”

3. At this point, the student will confirm by saying once again:

“You have the aircraft”

The three step process allows for a quick and easy transfer process for transferring control of the aircraft.

Once the instructor has conducted their brake check, the instructor will then pass controls back to the student using the same process of positive exchange of flight controls and the process will continue.

Actually Taxiing Out

Once the brake check is done by both the student and the instructor and the control of the aircraft has been given back to the student, the next step is to start the process of taxiing towards the appropriate runway.

Pushing the throttle forward will increase the power of the engine and you want to push the throttle just enough to get the aircraft moving. The goal is to set the forward movement to that which is at a slow jogging pace.

It is important to note that the throttle should be adjusted to control the speed as opposed to the brakes and as speed increases, the throttle should be pulled back if needed to reduce the power.

At all times, it is very important to remember to look outside and scan the area for any obstructions making sure that the wing tips are clear of any obstacles especially around other people, aircraft or in congested areas.

As part of the taxiing process you may need to cross various intersections. It is important especially in these areas to not only visually check the intersection but to verbally confirm that these intersections are actually clear. To do this confirm verbally “clear left”, “clear right” and “clear center” as this will force you brain to actually recite what you are doing and draw more attention and focus to the task at hand.

While taxiing, the proper foot position is with heels on the floor when not applying the brakes as this will prevent you from riding the brakes. You also want to avoid taxiing with the power on and brakes on at the same time as riding the brakes will wear out the brake sooner.

Simply put, move your toes  to apply the brakes only when needed.  To slow down, first reduce throttle and if needed, apply the brakes as necessary.

Keeping it Centered

Just as you would drive a car within the appropriate lane, the yellow taxi line serves as a way to help keep an aircraft clear of obstacles and the best practice is to keep the center line between your two feet. Although you may be riding right on the centerline, it is still important to constantly scan outside for any visible obstructions all the way beyond the wing tip. It is important to be alert as to what is around you such as cars, people and airplanes as these are all likely to be moving on the ramp at the same time as you are taxiing.

*Note: Using too much rudder or brake pedal can cause you to swerve back and forth across the taxiway, so caution should be used with the rudder pedals.

Turning during Taxiing

When you are approaching a turn, there are a few things to keep in mind. Just as in a car, your speed should be reduced coming into a turn which should be accomplished in the aircraft first by pulling back on the throttle to reduce the power. Another thing to keep in mind is that it takes a greater amount of power to start moving an aircraft once it has stopped as opposed to keeping an aircraft in morion once it has started, so if possible it is best to keep the aircraft in motion as a safe speed while making turns. Staying in motion will not only save time, but also save fuel and the expenses associated with fuel burn. Who knows, that little extra bit of fuel could come in handy should something unfortunate happen in flight.

In the Cessna Skyhawk 172, the rudder pedals are connected to the nose wheel so in order to turn, simple push the rudder pedal down on the side that you rant to turn. For example, if you want to turn right, push the right rudder pedal and to turn left, push the left pedal.

For instances when you need to tighten a turn, it may be necessary to lightly apply brake pedal to that side. When you have made the turn and want to straighten the airplane out, you will use the opposite rudder to straighten the airplane keeping in mind that the brake may be used if necessary to get the aircraft straightened.

On the Cessna Skycatcher 162, the controls are a little different. Due to the catering nose wheel, for turning, you will need to press lightly on the top of the rudder pedal to engage the brake on the side that you want to turn. For instance where you need to tighten the turn, additional brake pressure may be necessary. Just as described above for the Cessna 172 Skyhawk, you will use the opposite brake to straighten the airplane.

Sharp Turns

Sometimes sharp turns are necessary such as when you want to do some doughnuts on the tarmac. Kidding. Kidding. Don’t do doughnuts on the tarmac in an airplane.

Sharp turns are similar to the above with a few exceptions. In order to make sharp turns you will need to use more power while applying more brake than usual while pressing the rudder in the direction you want to turn. You want to be careful not to lock up the brakes and make sure to use a power setting high enough to keep the aircraft moving. Also keep in mind that with a higher power setting, the propeller will be pushing more airflow so be aware of your surrounding as to not cause any damage due to blowing debris from the propeller blast.

Running Up the Engine

The “Engine Run-up is part of the series of checks that a pilot will do before taking off in the aircraft. Generally, an engine run-up on a Cessna 172 or other single piston aircraft will consist of checking the aircrafts’s magnetos, carburetor heat in addition to other basic engine instrument readings such as the oil pressure, oil temperature and cylinder head temperature. Thanks to Paul Tocknell for this helpful explanation at

Prior to take off, the engine run up test will be done and when entering the run-up area is it important to be aware of your surroundings especially as to other aircraft. It is important to leave enough room for other airplanes to enter the run-up area and to be courteous to other aircraft.

Here are a few key points regarding the Engine Run-up:

  • If possible you want to point the the aircraft into the wind as this will ensure that as much air as possible is directed over the engine.
  • Straighten the aircraft and nose wheel using the rudder pedals before coming to a stop.
  • Apply the parking brake.
  • Proceed with your “Before Takeoff Checklist”.
  • When leaving the run-up area make sure to visually look for any obstacles, aircraft or potential hazard to avoid any type of collision and always make sure to use proper etiquette and wait your turn for takeoff as to not cut off any other aircraft.





Starting the Engine

Now that the pre-flight checks have been done and your seat is adjusted properly, the next step is to start the engine. There are several cockpit controls that are used for starting the engine which all are adjusted depending on various scenarios and circumstances.

The most common training airplane is generally the Cessna 172. There are 5 main engine controls for the Cessna 172 as follows:


To set the throttle for engine start, find the 1/4″ mark on the throttle and align your finger with that marking. Push the throttle in until your finger reaches the stopping point.

Mixture Control

The mixture control knob is next to the throttle control and has a red handle. This control changes the fuel to air mixture ratio. Pushing in increased the amount of fuel in the mixture (rich) and pulling back increases the amount of air (lean).

Pushing all the way forward is the “full Rich” position.

Pulling all the way back is the idle cutoff position “lean” (shut off engine) .

There is a lock button at the end which is used to prevent accidental movement and depressed for quick or large adjustments.

There is a function called “vernier adjustment” in which fine tunings can be made. Clockwise results in forward movement and counterclockwise a fine tuning on the pulling function. Another way to think of it is clockwise is  fine tuning more rich & counterclockwise fine tuning the lean.

For startup on the Cessna 172, it should be set to fully pushed forward in the “full rich” position before start.

Pull back around 1″ for a general lean mixture.

Master Switch

The master switch turns the power on and off from the main battery and is located on the left side of the instrument panel (red switch). This doesn’t control the engine ignition.

Ignition switch and key

Similar to the ignition switch of a car, this switch is positioned on the instrument panel at the lower left and contains a 5 position switch. The positions are as follows starting with the left most position:

    • Off
    • R (magnetos-prop)
    • L (magnetos-prop)
    • Both (magnetos-prop)
    • Start

For engine start, the position should be on the start position and once the engine starts, moved to the “both” position.

Oil pressure gauge

The oil pressure gauge is located in the engine instruments display panel and will normally show pressure around 30 to 60 seconds after the engine starts.

For reference, the oil pressure will increase more quickly after start if the oil is warm and will take longer if the oil is cold.

The engine should be shut off if the oil pressure gauge shows no pressure to avoid any potential engine damage.

Step-By-Step Procedure for starting the engine

Below is a step be step procedure for getting the engine started. This is in reference to the Cessna 172. Think of this as a checklist for starting the engine.

    1. Parking Brake – Once your seat is adjusted and you are all buckled in, the next step is to ensure that the parking brake is set. This should have already been set but now it is a good time to double check now before starting the engine.
    2. Lights – Turn on the strobes and/or beacon which will signal any others that you will be starting the engine and that the prop will be turning soon.
    3. Safety – Visually scan the area around the aircraft to ensure the area is clear for prop movement. Loudly yell out of the window, the words “Clear Prop” to alert anyone nearby and to give them a chance to respond. This should be done with the headset off to ensure you can hear a response.
    4. Start the engine
    5. Set the throttle to idle at 1000 RPM (as indicated on the tachometer) and ensure that the oil pressure is safely indicating in the green area.
Engine Starting Problems

There are many reasons why the engine won’t start. From complicated mechanical failures to a dead battery, sometimes problems happen.

If the battery is dead, then engine will not start. Often times, a dead battery could be due to the master switch being left on which has drained the battery. Recharging the battery in this scenario should solve the problem. If the battery is older or in bad condition, a replacement may be necessary, especially if the battery will not hold a charge. If the alternator is not functioning properly, the battery will not be able to charge which could also be a cause of a dead battery. In this case, the alternator would need to be repaired or replaced along with charging or replacing the battery.

* Starting the engine by hand-turning the prop should not be attempted.


Pre-Flight Checks

Preflight inspections and checks should be done with the assistance of a checklist. This will not only help to ensure nothing is missed but also using a checklist for operational procedures is a good safety practice.

A checklist cane be used in an “operational order” form in which to ensure that nothing is missed. Pilots of all experience levels routinely use checklists, so building good checklist habits from the beginning will help throughout your avaition experience.

Common pre-flight checklist items:

  • Aircraft documents and FAA required information
  • Cockpit Placards
  • Instrument Markings according to Limitations
  • AROW (Acronym for the 4 specific required Documents)
    • Airworthiness Certificate (confirms Original aircraft manufacturer and certification status, this document is effective provided the airplane is operated and maintained per regulations, identifies the aircraft serial number, must be visible to pilot or passengers and usually found in the cockpit to the left of the pilot)
    • Registration Certificate (just like a car registrations, it shows who owns the plane, serial number, Valid for 3 years at the end of the registrations month, must be renewed at least 6 months before the expiration date, usually found alongside the Airworthiness Certificate, not required to be visible to pilot or passengers- can be behind Airworthiness Certificate)
    • Operating Limitations (specific to each airplane by serial number, placards or instrument markings, operating limitations are noted in the Pilot’s Operating Handbook -POH and specify limitations such as speeds, weight and types of operations.
    • Weight and Balance (outlines the allowable limits for loading the aircraft with fuel, cargo and passengers, usually in the POH but can be anywhere, specific to the individual aircraft)

Prior to each flight, it is important to use the pre-flight checklist which will include the following:

  • Aircraft Condition and Structure
    • cracks
    • abnormal wear and tear
    • missing components
    • damage
  • Aircraft Surroundings
    • loose debris that may be from the aircraft (nuts, bolts, glass, metal)
    • fluids under or near the aircraft (oil, fuel)
    • AROW documents and/or any other required documents
    • Fluids (Fuel/Oil)
      • Sufficient and correct quantity for destination and/or diversion/weather
      • Correct fuel type
      • Fluids not contaminated by water or other substance
      • Ensure the Aircraft has unobstructed movement
        • remove tie downs
        • remove wheel chocks
        • Control Lock
        • Pitot tube cover
        • ensure nothing is in the taxi path of the aircraft, wings, wheels etc
        • Adjust pilot seat for visibility ( ensure you can see over the engine)