Safety Publications/Articles

Students and airplane systems

How much do your students know about the mechanical workings of the airplanes they fly? Hopefully, they can tell you a lot. Sometimes, however, they can't.

I recently asked a student, "What would happen to the engine if you turned off the master switch in flight on your typical Piper or Cessna trainer?"

He replied, "The engine would quit. We never turn off the master switch in flight."

Then I asked him how he would handle an in-flight electrical fire.

He replied, "Well, I suspect we'd have to turn off the master switch which would result in our having to make a forced landing." If you believe that, then you might also believe that preignition is the ability to see sparks from the future.

It's an unfortunate fact that airplane systems often aren't given the attention they deserve during flight training. Nothing good can ever come from this.

So the next time you and your student are preflighting the airplane, open the cowling (if possible) and poke around a bit. Have your student identify the engine's major components such as the magnetos, the carburetor (or fuel management unit), the vacuum pump, the intake manifold, the exhaust manifold, and so on.

Then point to any of the airplane's several antennas and ask which equipment uses them. Your student should be able to identify the transponder antenna, the VOR antenna, the marker beacon antenna, the glideslope antenna, etc.

If you are so inclined, you might even have a bit of fun by slipping your shoe under the cowling before the student opens it (if it's your shoe you won't forget it's there, right?). The expression on your student's face will be priceless.

By Rod Machado

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