Being Safe Around Airplanes

There are many things at and near aircrafts that can harm you and safety is key. In order to develop safety habits, there are several factors to keep in mind.

With single engine airplanes involving a propeller, the prop is probably one of the most dangerous components of the airplane. Although a beacon light should be on or strobe light flashing whenever the prop is spinning, it can be difficult to see the prop in motion which at any speed can be extremely dangerous.

Safety measures around the propeller during a preflight inspection:

  • Make sure the engine is off, the key is not in the ignition and is visible in plane sight.
  • Make sure the mixture control is idle cut off
  • Make sure the throttle is pulled back in the closed position
  • When moving the prop, do not use your fingers and use a flat hand instead

Safety Before Starting the Engine and Getting the Prop Spinning:

  • make a visual inspection to check for vehicles, people, animals or any other items around the propeller
  • Loudly should “Clear Prop” to alert any potential passerby’s to be aware that you are preparing to start the engine
  • Provided you do not hear or see any response, you should be clear to turn the key and start the engine

Although the engine may not be running, it is possible that the propeller could start if bumped with the ignition key in any position other than the “Off” position.

It is important to always remember to keep your head, feet, arms, hands or anything in the path of the propeller, especially when connecting or disconnecting a tow bar.

Seat Belt & Shoulder Harness

just like an automobile, the seatbelt and shoulder harnesses are required to be worn whenever you are in your seat with the aircraft moving. Many people believe that a good safety habit is to always have your seat belt latched anytime the engine is running.




Preparing for Flight

Lists, Lists and more Lists. This wouldn’t be Listomattic without lists, so before you fly, there are some considerations that need to be taken into account.

  1. Pilot Well Being
  2. Weather
  3. Weight & Balance
  4. Takeoff and Landing performance for anticipated weather conditions
  5. Supplies & Materials
  6. Preflight Breifing
Pilot Well Being

Make sure you are physically and mentally prepared to fly. Refer to the IM SAFE acronym which is any of the following:

        • Illness
        • Medication
        • Stress
        • Alcohol
        • Fatigue & Food
        • Emotion

Check the weather in your current location as well the destination and all paths in between, keeping in mind any potential diversions that may be necessary.

Weather concerns should include:

        • Winds (measured in knots and “from” direction”)
        • Visibility conditions including need for VFR vs IFR (measured in miles and refers to the distance in which an object or light source can be seen)
        • Sky Condition (Clouds referred to as AGL (above ground level described as overcast or broken)
        • Temperature and dew point (degrees in Celsius, Higher temp = lower performance, closer to dew point = greater chance for fog & poor visibility)
        • Altimeter Settings (current atmospheric pressure with standard being 29.92″ of mercury, Above 29.92″ is high pressure, Below 29.92″ is low pressure)

Check airports for the Automated Weather Observation System or Automated Surface Observing System.

Weather conditions determine the permissible flight conditions.

VMC (Visual Meteorological Conditions) are when the cloud ceiling is greater than 3000′ above ground level with a visibility of more than 5 miles.

Students pilots should follow the following as a guide -VFR (Visual Flight Rules) – Visual to be able to see conditions and Visual Meteorological  Conditions (VMC – a cloud ceiling higher than 3000 Above Ground Level with at least 5 miles of visibility) as well as winds less than 15 knots.

IFR (Instrument Flight Rules) – Requires an instrument rating for permissible flying in weather conditions.

Weight and Balance

This includes you fuel planning, passenger load, luggage or cargo weights.

Weight and balance calculation are done for each flight to make sure the plane doesn’t fly too heavy and to distribute weight appropriately for the flight.

Takeoff and Landing Performance for Anticipated Weather Conditions

Just like weather, keeping in mind all potential landing locations.

Calculating the takeoff and landing performance data is to ensure that you can successfully takeoff given the length of the runway as well as to land and stop the aircraft at the destination or diverted runway under given lenghts.

Supplies and Materials

Any necessary flight equipment such as headsets, charts, airport diagrams, appropriate clothing or attire for destination or any parts in between, food, water emergency gear.

Here are some flight tools to consider before getting the aircraft ready for flight:

    • Communication devices such as headset, iPad, phone
    • Appropriate eye and ear protection (glasses, safety glasses, sunglasses, earplugs)
    • Any keys or access passes for aircraft, luggage compartments, airport gates or keycards, parking pass
    • Pilot Logbook
    • Fuel Sampler
    • Kneepad
    • Navigational Charts
    • Cushion for seat, if needed for visibility.
Preflight Briefing

Flight Instructor and pilot review the purpose of the anticipated flight and work through the roles and responsibilities as well as the activities planned for the trip. Another important topic is the status of the airplane.


Primary Airplane Flight Controls

There are four primary flight controls with an aircraft as follows:

Elevator -located at the back of the horizontal stabilizer on the tail which controls the horizontal movement. These are controlled by moving the yoke (control wheel) forward (pushing away) or backwards (pulling towards). This is used to control the aircraft nose up or down AKA pitch or pitching.

Rudder -located on the vertical stabilizer on the tail which controls the vertical movement.

The rudder controls the left and right movement of the nose also known as “yaw”. This is controlled by the floor pedals. Right pedal makes aircraft nose move to the right and left pedal makes aircraft nose move to the left.

The rudder pedals control the brakes for taxiing and each pedal corresponds the that brake in the landing gear. Push both pedals to stop or slow the aircraft when taxiing or on the ground.

Ailerons – these are located on the back of the wing at the wingtip. These are used to “bank” the aircraft left or right. Moving the yoke to the left makes the left aileron go up and the right aileron go down.

By moving the left aileron up and the right down, a downward force is applied to the left wing and an upwards force is applied to the right wing which “rolls” the aircraft to the left. The reverse is true for moving the car to the right which moves the right aileron up, in which case the aircraft will bank right.

Ailerons are what turns the aircraft through changing the lift of the aircraft.

Throttle – The throttle is responsible for increasing or decreasing power to the engine which the power is referred to in RPM (revolutions per minute) just as an automobile. There is a cable attached to the engine which controls the power.

Pushing the throttle in increases power and pulling the throttle out decreases power.

You use more power when gaining speed, climbing and reducing descent rate.

Less power when slowing the airplane, descending and reducing climb rate.

Main Components of an Airplane

For anyone wanting to learn how to fly airplanes, it is important to know the main components of an aircraft. Obviously, this isn’t every single component but more of a general starting place for a new private pilot.


This is the body of the aircraft and includes the cabin & cockpit. All major components will be attached to the fuselage.

Engine & Propeller (Powerplant)

Propeller (prop) is attached directly to the front of the engine and is usually 2 or more blades that are twisted at specific angles. These blades are thicker at the base and will be tapered at the tips. Rotates Clockwise

The Engine is in front of the aircraft body (fuselage) and is the power source for the propeller. Airflow while in motion and from the propeller is the cooling source for the engine.

The engine is the power source for the accessories such as the alternator and magnetos.


Airplanes are commonly referred to as high wing if the wings are attached to the top of the fuselage or low wing if attached to the bottom the aircraft body. Wings are responsible for the aircraft lift.

Desirable characteristics of the high wing design:

  • Wings are above so it is easier to view the ground
  • High wings provide shade from the sun or protection from rain.
  • Greater ground clearance
  • Easy to access for pre-flight inspections

Landing Gear

On most small aircraft such as the Cessna 172, the landing gear consists of 3 wheels in which 2 are attached to the aircraft body (fuselage) and the third wheel in front that is just under the engine. Brakes on the Cessna 172 are attached to the 2 main gear and can be operated independently.

While on the ground, the landing gear supports the entire weight of the aircraft.

Main gear should be the last to touch the ground during takeoff and fist to touch ground on landing whereas the nose gear is designed to support the nose and engine.

Nose gear also is what helps to steer the aircraft during taxiing and is not only lighter, but does not have a brake system.

Tail (Empennage)

The tail is also know as the empennage which is a reference to a French word that means “to feather an arrow” so when you think of how the feathers of an affair help it to glide through the air, the same basic principal applies with regards to the tail of an airplane.

The vertical portion of the tail includes the Vertical stabilizer the fixed part of the tail designed to maintain stability and straight while in flight.

Attached to the tail is the rudder which acts as a steering device while in flight to move the nose of the aircraft left and right.

The horizontal portion of the tail includes the Horizontal Stabilizer which keeps the aircraft level and keeps the nose from drifting up or down.

Attached to the horizontal stabilizer is the elevator which controls the pitch of the airplane. The pitch is what makes the up or down movement of the nose.

Learning to Fly

From the Foo Fighters:

I’m looking to the sky to save me
Looking for a sign of life
Looking for something help me burn out bright
I’m looking for a complication
Looking ’cause I’m tired of trying
Make my way back home
When I learn to fly (high)
Now that you have that song stuck in your head, let’s learn to fly.
I think a good starting point is the FAA Airplane Flying Handbook. It’s about 350 pages if pure reading enjoyment, well not quite enjoyment but it will be filled with acronyms such as PTS (Practical Test Standards) and ACS (Airman Certification Standards), along with CFR, TCO, DPE —ok ok enough with the acronyms. If you really want the acronyms, you can them on the acronyms page in a list format.
Let’s get back to learning how to fly.

Airplane Flying Handbook (Free)

Anyone thinking of becoming a pilot should become familiar with the FAA Airplane Flying Handbook. This will provide a good starting point for gaining initial knowledge as well as learning the book work portion of the beginning stages of flying.

Training Courses

There are several pilot training courses available. For a private pilot license, the flight instructor will usually be the one to determine which program they like to teach off of. There are online options for web based training as well as traditional book training.
Gleim Aviation has both online and book training and King Schools offers Cessna flight training. The Cessna Flight Training from King Schools runs around $364.

Your First Lesson

Your first lesson with your instructor will most likely include the safety of flight practices and your first dual instruction flight will most likely familiarize you with the following:
  • Collision Avoidance
    • Proper scanning techniques
    • Clearing Procedures
  •  Runway Incursion Avoidance
  • Stall Awareness
  • Use of Checklists
  • Positive transfer controls
  • Flight Deck Workload Management

What to Expect on your First Flight

Since this is the starting point, your first flight should cover and introduce you to the following:

  • Aviation vocabulary & terms
  • pre-flight procedures
  • ground Operations
  • the basics of aircraft control
  • Post-flight procedures

For this flight, you will begin with the checklist procedures for the different phases of your flight with the instructor and will usually consist of about a half hour of flight time in a non-crowded airspace.

Want the full lesson plan? Click here!







Collision Avoidance

This is a summary of the collision avoidance section of the FAA Airplane Flying Handbook and is being used as a reference for training materials.

  • See and Avoid is the concept for the flight rules in 14 CFR part 91 which states that “vigilance shall be maintained all all times” by the pilot regardless of whether flying under IFR (instrument) or VFR (visual).
  • Pilots need to always be watching their surroundings.
  • Most mid air & near mid air collisions happen in good visibility, good weather & during the day within 5 miles of an airport. This means that these are most likely due to pilots not paying attention and watching for other aircrafts.

With “See and Avoid”, you have to be aware of the limitations on the human eye and use proper scanning techniques to offset these limitations.

In short, as a pilot, you need to be aware of all traffic movement in your field of visions as well any area outside the aircraft to make sure nothing is going to hit you and that you are not going to hit anything. Pretty common sense type of stuff. Pay attention at all times.

Other factors to take into account are as airplane performance capabilities and speed and rate of climb/descent. These have an impact on how quickly you can detect and make the decision on which action to take.

The more you look outside and the more you scan your surroundings, the more likely and quickly you are to identify a potential collision threat.


There are some techniques that can be used to increase the effectiveness of the scan time. Since the human eye seems to alway focus somewhere, the pilot should glance in different ares and regularly refocus.

Generally this is done by scanning the instrument panel but it’s important to also focus outside to scan for other objects and to be aware of any potential hazards in the sky.

It may take a few seconds for the eyes to refocus when switching between the instrument panel and outside, especially if there is a distant object.

Efficient scanning involves spreading your attention with all of the piloting tasks and can be affected by any of the following mental and physical conditions:

  • fatigue
  • boredom
  • illness
  • anxiety
  • preoccupation

Basically, scanning a series of short and regularly spaced eye movements across the sky can create a central visual field which will help to create a big picture.

Each pilot should develop and stick to a comfortable scanning pattern keeping in mind the following

  • each movement should not  be more than 10 degrees
  • each area should be observed for at least 1 second
  • horizontal eye movements seem to be preferred by most pilots



Aviation Acronyms

For someone who like’s list, this one is a joy to read. All kidding aside, these will probably be on a test somewhere, so memorize them now and you will be prepared. Not wanting to be a pilot? you should still memorize them just in case you need to help a pilot. Since this originated from the Airplane Flying Handbook, I am just going in order. Enjoy.

  • A & P – Airframe and Powerplant (license)
  • ACS – Airman Certification Standards
  • ADM – Aeronautical Decision Making
  • ADs – Air worthiness Directives
  • AFM – Airplane Flight Manual
  • AFS – Flight Standards Service
  • AGL – above ground level
  • AIM – Aeronautical Information Manual (10-12-2017)
  • AOA – area of attack
  • ARTCCs – Air Route Traffic Control Centers
  • ASIs – Aviation Safety Inspectors
  • ASOS – Automated Surface Observing System
  • ATC – Air Traffic Control
  • ATIS – Automatic Terminal Information Service
  • AWOS – Automated Weather Observation System
  • BARO – Barometric Pressure (knob on electronic flight display)
  • CFI – Certified Flight Instructor
  • CFR – Code of Federal Regulations
  • CG – Center of Gravity
  • CRM – Cockpit Resource Management
  • CTAF – common traffic advisory frequency
  • CTIF – controlled flight into terrain
  • DPE – Designated Pilot Examiner
  • ELT – emergency locator transmitter
  • FAA – Federal Aviation Administration
  • FAR – Federal Aviation Regulations
  • FITS – FAA/Industry Training Standards
  • FPM – feet per minute
  • FSDO – Flight Standards District Office
  • IA – Inspection Authorization
  • INOP – inoperative
  • IRF – Instrument Flight Rules
  • KOEL – Kinds of Operation Equipment List
  • MEL – Minimum Equipment List
  • MFD – Multi-function Display
  • MSL – mean seal level
  • NAS – National Airspace System
  • NOTAMs – Notices To Airmen
  • PAVE – Pilot – Aircraft – EnVironment – External pressures
  • PFD – Primary Flight Display
  • PIC – Pilot in Command
  • PIM – Pilot’s Information Manual
  • POH – Pilot’s Operating Handbook
  • PTS – Practical Test Standards
  • RM – Risk Management
  • SLCA – Special Light Sport Aircraft
  • SRM – Single Pilot Resource Management
  • TCDS – Type Certificate Data Sheet
  • TCO – training course outline
  • TPA – Traffic Pattern Altitude
  • VFR – Visual Flight Rules
  • VMC – Visual Meterological Conditions
  • VSI – vertical speed indicator


Piston Engine Aircraft

Below is information I have gathered online regarding Piston Engine Aircrafts:


2000 Hours is usually the time for a piston aircraft engine before needing to be overhauled.

When looking at used aircraft, there are usually SFOH (hrs since Factory Overhaul) and SMOH (hrs since Major Overhaul). The main difference is that the SFOH refers to a manufacturer overhaul vs the major overhaul which was most likely done locally or independent facility.

Factory overhauls are generally more expensive.





Buying an airplane

Here is a list of sites that I found that have aircrafts for sale:

  1. Aircraft Shopper Online – I like this site because you can search by aircraft type with a list. For example, this single engine prop aircraft list.
  2. Controller – nice list of aircraft for sale.
  3. Trade-a-plane – This has a list similar to Aircraft Shopper, but this doesn’t specify the model number in the same way for the single engine aircrafts.

New PPL Aircraft List

I wanted to put together a list of aircrafts that I thought might be good for a first time buyer or someone with a fresh PPL. My considerations were pretty simple as I wanted something somewhat affordable as well as something that would not only help build my flight hours, but also something I could actually use with family/friends. I narrowed it down to the following:


  1. Capable of transporting myself and 3 others max (with light luggage for short trips)
  2. Around the $50K ballpark price.
  3. Low overhead as far as anticipated expenses and maintenence.

Aircrafts (not in order)

  • Cessna 172
  • Cessna 177
  • Cessna 180
  • Cessna 185
  • Cessna 182
  • Cessna 182
  • Cessna 206
  • Mooney M20
  • Piper Archer
  • Piper Arrow
  • Piper Cherokee 140/150/160
  • Piper Cherokee 180
  • Piper Cherokee 235
  • Piper Cherokee Six (260/300)
  • Piper Lance


  • Airframe & Power Systems Information

This is going to be your engine & Props

  • Maintenance Condition
  • Avionics
  • Equipment
  • Logs

Terminology & Other Factors

  • Annual Inspection Due
  • Useful Load
  • Tank Size
  • Range
  • Speed
  • Engine
  • Prop
  • SMOH -Hours Since Major Overhaul
  • SFOH – Hours Since Factory Overhaul
  • SPOH – Hours Since Prop Overhaul


Found in Cessna 172 Listings

  • King KX 175B with VOR Indictor
  • King KT76A Transponder
  • Pilot Yoke PTT Switch