A Lineup Check for Light Planes

A few quick glances can provide excellent insurance during critical phases of flight.

Light Airplane
Light Airplane

In many regards light airplanes are more forgiving than jets. This is one reason that pilots of jet aircraft are trained to approach each flight in a very regimented fashion. There are just so many different systems in a jet, and if mismanaged some of those systems have the potential to kill you. Flaps and trim are two of these. Try taking off in a jet from a short runway with landing flaps deployed and a disaster is almost certain to follow. Part of this is due to the fact that a jet’s wing is so much more heavily loaded than most light airplane’s wings that it needs all the lift it can get to fly, so it’s particularly intolerant of configuration mistakes. And takeoff speeds are high, so you have less time to fix a problem if one arises, like having the trim badly miss-set.

Some newer jets have takeoff configuration warning systems that let you know if you have missed anything, like having landing flaps in before takeoff. Even so, smart jet pilots do a quick check right before takeoff of all the things that might kill them if missed before beginning the takeoff roll. The systems you would check vary from airplane to airplane and are dependent on what systems the airplanes has. But the most usual suspects are flaps, trims, speed brakes and spoilers. A quick check of the engine and fuel gauges makes sense, too, not to mention verifying that no warning or caution lights are illuminated.

Those of us flying piston singles can do the same kind of lineup check. Take a quick look to make sure that flaps, trim and mixture are properly set, that the fuel is selected to a tank with fuel, that the engine instruments are in the green and that there are no PFD or gyro failures. This kind of check takes but a couple of quick glances, and it’s excellent insurance against being distracted into missing something important before commencing with one of the two most critical phases of flight.