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The following stories from the May 14, 2010, edition of AOPA ePilot were provided to AOPA members who expressed an interest in the particular subject areas. Any AOPA member can receive information tailored to their areas of interest by updating their preferences online.



Before-takeoff checks

The flight is a go, the preflight is complete, and you are taxiing for takeoff. Just one more step before launch: the pre-takeoff checklist. It’s a moment of great anticipation, after which you’ll advise the tower, “Ready for takeoff,” or prepare to take the runway at your nontowered field.


Takeoff is always thrilling, but don’t let thrills override your duty of care. The engine runup, instrument checks, and system checks shouldn’t leave you less than completely satisfied. Remember, under the federal aviation regulations, it’s the pilot in command—not the owner, mechanic, or other party—“who is directly responsible for, and is the final authority as to, the operation of that aircraft.”


Aircraft checklists vary, but the essentials are always there. Seatbelts and shoulder harnesses (for all occupants) must be secure, and cabin doors closed and locked. The fuel valve must be properly positioned, and in some aircraft, electric fuel pump on. Cowl flaps, if equipped, should be open. Trim, instruments, and radios should be set; flight controls free and correct.


Pay close attention to your engine during the magneto check. You may know that roughness on one mag may be the result of spark plug fouling, possibly from low power settings during ground operations. Leaning may resolve it. No drop in rpm during a mag check? Evidence, perhaps, of a defective P-lead; an ungrounded mag requires prompt attention. (See the April 9 “ Training Tip: Props and safety.”)


Then there’s the less-common situation of one magneto yielding more of an rpm drop than the other: “The operating manual will recommend a maximum allowable difference. Typical is about 50 rpm. It is possible for the rpm drop on each mag to be within limits but the difference between the mags to be excessive. The most common problem here is improper timing of one or both magnetos. Get it checked out. A very small difference between the mags is all right,” wrote Earl C. Downs in the January 2002 Flight Training feature “ The magneto check.”


A great resource for being ready for your pre-takeoff checks is the guidance in the AOPA Air Safety Foundation’s Engine Operations Safety Advisor, or its interactive online course Engine and Propeller .


Everything in order? Then it’s time to key the microphone and inform the tower that you are ready for takeoff.


FAR/AIM flashcard app from ASA

Studying on the go for your next knowledge test or checkride just got a little easier. ASA has introduced an iPhone application that offers flashcards covering the rules, regulations, and guidance set out in the federal aviation regulations and the Aeronautical Information Manual. The FAR/AIM Flashcards app sells for $9.99 and can be used on an iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad. For information on all of ASA’s iPhone apps, visit the website.


Note: Products listed have not been evaluated by ePilot editors unless otherwise noted. AOPA assumes no responsibility for products or services listed or for claims or actions by manufacturers or vendors. 


Question: Can a pilot replace an ELT (emergency locator transmitter) battery as part of preventive maintenance?


Answer: Yes, the pilot/operator can replace an ELT battery under Appendix A to Federal Aviation Regulation Part 43, “Major Alterations, Major Repairs, and Preventive Maintenance.” An individual must be able to follow the manufacturer’s recommendations, and the battery has to have a plug-in or snap-on connector replacement where no soldering is required. Don’t forget, too, that the new expiration date for replacing or recharging the battery must be legibly marked on the outside of the transmitter and entered in the aircraft maintenance records. Read more about this in “ A Pilot’s Guide to Preventive Maintenance.”

Got a question for our technical services staff? E-mail [email protected] or call the Pilot Information Center, 800/872-2672. Don’t forget the online archive of “Final Exam” questions and answers, searchable by keyword or topic.

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