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Project PreflightProject Preflight

What are your students missing?

Each year at Sun ’n Fun the FAA hosts an event called Project Preflight. Partnering with a local flight school, the FAA presents an airplane that has been, well, let’s say, tampered with. The goal for pilots and student pilots is to preflight the airplane as they normally would, using a checklist, and see how many discrepancies they can spot. 

The 2017 participating flight school was SunState Aviation in Kissimmee, Florida. One hundred forty-four pilots took the preflight challenge. SunState’s Alec Larson documented the findings, and what he related is eye-opening.

  • Water bottle lodged behind rudder pedal: 30 percent found this.
  • Cotter pin missing in right wheel: 28 percent found this.
  • Elevator nut missing: 39 percent found this.
  • Rag behind alternator: 63 percent discovered this.
  • Cotter pin in control lock: Probably most troubling, just 42 percent found a cotter pin in place of the control lock. “Hard to miss but deadly if left in,” Larson noted.

You don’t need to participate in Sun ’n Fun—or AirVenture, or any airshow, for that matter—to put on your own preflight competition. Why not trick out one of your airplanes with multiple “discrepancies” and invite your clients to do a thorough preflight? You could make it competitive by handing out prizes to pilots who spot the most issues. (You could also work up a little friendly competition among your flight instructors by giving a prize to the CFI whose student finds the most issues.) It would be a great community event for a rainy Saturday, a flight school cookout, or a Rusty Pilots seminar.

More important, putting together your own Project Preflight could help you and your instructors determine whether your customers know what to look for. For example, if they are overlooking obvious items such as a missing pilot’s operating handbook, tape covering a static port, or a missing fuel valve selector, it’s time for Preflight 101.

Read the article for an entire list of discrepancies and other findings from SunState Aviation. 

Jill W. Tallman

Jill W. Tallman

AOPA Technical Editor
AOPA Technical Editor Jill W. Tallman is an instrument-rated private pilot who owns a Piper Cherokee 140.

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