One of the first things you learn as a student pilot is how to preflight the airplane. Your flight instructor reviews each item on the checklist as, step by step, you learn the procedure that starts in the cockpit and finishes after a thorough review of the exterior.
In the end, everything from fuel quantity to tire struts is inspected and, ideally, the aircraft is deemed safe to fly. After all the planning for a flight—including checking the weather, planning the route, reviewing airport diagrams and radio frequencies, and ensuring the pilot’s own readiness to fly—the preflight is the final check of the aircraft before getting airborne. It should not be rushed.
It’s also beneficial to add items to your preflight routine, depending on the type, make and model of your aircraft or the season. In the spring, birds may cozy up around the engine. Opening the cowling and looking around—not just quickly checking the oil—is a good habit. There may be signs of a bird or insect nest—such as straw, mud, or small twigs—that indicate a closer inspection is warranted. For renters, checking the squawks should be part of each preflight. By doing so you’ll learn about concerns that other pilots have noted, and what corrective action was taken.
After completing the preflight and looking at each aircraft component in detail, it’s time to do a ”big picture” walkaround inspection. By stepping back and doing one final review, you may identify items that were not evident during preflight or that you intended to get to later. And it may save you the embarrassment of trying to taxi with the chocks still in place!