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What is your Pre-Flight Checklist?

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  • What is your Pre-Flight Checklist?

    Hey guys, I want to assemble a comprehensive pre-flight checklist and what better way than to compile the best of our HobbySquawk community to do it. Just this past weekend I was guilty of not rechecking my CG on my custom F-18 and the second she rotated I realized my blunder :Angry:

    So please post your order of operations from when you arrive at the field with your aircraft, to when you are set for take-off. I think this will be great information for every pilot to know.

  • #2
    I like lists, lists are good. IF they’re actually done.

    I complete a different pre-flight checklist depending on which flight it is. For maiden, I do everything on the lists below, twice. For subsequent flights, I’ll alternate or spread out some of the inspections every five flights or ten flights, depending. There’s also the factor of time. If I’m flying a model ten times in one day, a one-time inspection is usually enough. If a model was flown once then put in storage for two months, then before its second flight I’ll start all over again with the comprehensive checklist.

    I’ve built up the following list over the years for electric planes based on common sense and tough lessons –my failing to do several of these killed my birds, until I added the item to my checklist. This list below might sound like a lot of work, but it only takes a minute or two and is well worth saving the airplane. I fly several thousand of flights annually without incident and much of that is due to having caught issues on the ground before they became killers in the air. If I kill one of my airplanes, I want it to be from something I couldn't have reasonably prevented by doing my pre-flight checklist (dumb thumb crashes are also okay).

    Fuselage checklist
    --Verify nose cone is secure
    --Verify all screwed in flying surfaces are secure
    --Verify LEDs are functioning normally (good indication of system power and connectivity)
    --Verify inlet and outlet ducting is clear of debris
    --Verify power system is fastened securely (motor/EDF/ESC), this is done during assembly
    --Verify propellers are free of damage (check incident log)
    --Verify power system is free of debris (ferrous metal debris from Chinese riverbed runway)

    Undercarriage checklist:
    --Verify retract mounts are secure
    --Verify struts are tightened
    --Verify wheel tracking is straight without asymmetric binding
    --Steering servo is engaged
    --Cycle gear to verify sequence timing, strut alignment, and sufficient door seal

    Control surface checklist:
    --During initial assembly, manipulate the control surfaces without the linkage connected to ensure unhindered hinge movement
    --Verify the control rod enters the servo horn in the correct hole
    --Verify all linkages are secure and setup identically to their counterparts
    --Verify clevises are secure and the control horn’s ball link clevis is perpendicular to the servo horn hole
    --Verify all electronic connections are secure
    --Verify control surfaces move in the correct orientation as expected with your radio inputs
    --Verify all neutral positions are bind-free
    --Verify all neutral positions are in correct location and identical to their counterpart
    --Verify all hinges are bind-free and damage-free
    --For flaps, verify neutral positions and all movement positions are bind free

    Battery Bay checklist
    --Verify battery floor plate is secure
    --Verify battery strap is strong and not frayed
    --Verify all wiring moves unhindered
    --Verify battery/power carrying wires aren’t intertwined with control/servo wires
    --Verify battery’s placement is correct and doesn’t slip easily
    --Verify battery is correct voltage, capacity, balance
    --Verify battery is in good condition without any puffing
    --Routinely inspect the inside of the connector for condition. Remove scoring with pencil eraser as needed.
    --Verify UBEC wiring is not frayed or exposed
    --Verify hatch latch closes and locks securely

    Receiver checklist
    --Verify receiver’s wiring moves unhindered
    --Verify receiver is correct for the airframe (full range vs parkflyer)
    --Verify receiver is free of physical damage (refer to usage record and discard if crashed)
    --Verify receiver is placed correctly and that its antenna are arranged advantageously
    --Avoid placing receiver antenna near the canopy magnets or the carbon tubes (extra precaution)
    --If using a gyro, verify all functions are correct and verify the radio’s switch toggles modes as expected
    --If using a gyro, always assign an OFF function just in case it needs to be disabled during flight
    --Verify gyro, receiver, or gyroceiver is secured to the airframe correctly

    Binding checklist (done once initially)
    --Bind correctly and note the latency
    --After binding, verify the bind plug is removed from the BIND slot
    --After binding, remove the battery and restart the radio
    --Calibrate the ESC
    --Range Test at 50 paces (sometimes 100, if flying in “noisy” area), at both ends of the field

    System checklist
    --Verify correct Model is selected in the radio
    --During initial model setup in the radio, triple-check the Subtrim setting (I always reuse Model memory for new planes), and always verify the Travel Adjust, Reverse, and Servo D/R and Expo settings are appropriate
    --Verify radio-receiver connection is solid, see receiver LED indicator
    --Verify the Throttle Cut works (I always program Throttle Cut on every model)
    --RANGE TEST –I do this at least once every hour of flying, because where I fly there are many changing conditions as the day progresses (nearby police building and radio tower). When I taxi to the takeoff position, the model is usually more than 30 paces away. I’ll cycle through the range test again very quickly with the nose facing me, just as a matter of habit. The battery blocks most of an antenna while the nose is facing the pilot, so in my mind, this step helps. At least in my mind.

    Aerodynamic checklist
    --Ensure wings are reasonably true and that the vertical stab is reasonably true. It doesn’t need to be perfect and I bring out a laser guide every time.
    --Verify control surface work properly and in correct directions
    --Verify all doors close securely
    --Where applicable, verify that the leading edges of your Callie decals or packing tape hinges are well adhered to the surface. You don't want it flapping up in the wind like a sail
    --Where applicable, verify exhaust nozzles are true
    --Where applicable, verify prop downthrust and prop orientation are correct for the model
    --Where applicable, verify prop tips are tracking reasonably identically. It won't ever be perfect, but there shouldn't be excessive vibration during mid and high power test runs.
    --Where applicable, verify prop nut is fastened securely. Double-check thread orientation and use threadlocker where necessary, being extra careful to avoid it seeping onto any plastic parts

    Environmental checklist:
    --Ensure runway is acceptably clear of debris
    --Ensure airspace is clear
    --Ensure people around you know you're going to fly
    --Having a spotter is always ideal
    --Scan the airspace and file a mental flight plan as to how you're going to takeoff
    --Visually identify the "don't fly past that tree" or other boundaries
    --Mentally envision a "what if" scenario of how high would need to be to safely return to base with an engine out
    --Mentally envision your landing approach. This is probably the most helpful thing I do.

    Final Pre-taxi checklist:
    --Radio on, model selected
    --Battery in
    --Hatch latch secure
    --CG --Special note if adding/removing ordnance, swapping different sized batteries or power systems, or modifying the model in any way including a new paintjob or installing a camera
    --Cycle landing gear
    --Verify all surfaces move in proper direction (I say it aloud while I move the sticks “bank right = right aileron up”, etc)
    --Toggle through Rate switches to visually verify the surfaces move as expected in each mode
    --Taxi out, observe model’s wheel tracking and power curve
    --Forget about how much it cost
    --Take off and have fun



    Things I do not worry too much about:
    --If there’s a few millimeters of play in the control surfaces. This is normal.
    --If my CG is a few millimeters off. It’s my job to test CG range.
    --If the wheels are squeaky. I fly off a riverbed.
    --If the control surface throws are too high –I program High/Mid/Low for every control surface in my radio so it’s easy to toggle down to find something I like. Models won’t automatically die if the throws are a few millimeters too high or a couple millimeters too low.
    Camp My Instagram @Alpha.Makes

    Comment


    • #3
      On my EDF jets

      Every flight:

      Pre-taxi
      1. verify battery voltage (I use an onboard FrSky FLVSS sensor for this)
      2. flight controls free and correct !!!! <----- I see real world pilots do this, not so much with modelers. I check it every flight.
      3. cycle gear

      Pre Takeoff
      1. re-check battery voltage and RSSI (I can do this on my radio)
      2. re-check flight controls and verify takeoff settings
      3. final scan for runway incursions (people, animals, etc)

      After takeoff
      1. gear up
      2. flaps up
      3. initial turn
      In that order....and easy on the pull in the initial turn. You want to accelerate not decelerate.

      Landing
      1. I NEVER EVER EVER do a "gear pass" unless I'm doing a slow pass for the vultures ..er spectators. That's just a wasted approach. You can see the gear in the pattern and on final. No need for a "gear pass". Plus you are landing in a minute or so anyway no matter what.
      2. throttle / speed reduction, gear down on downwind or at the overhead break
      3. flaps 1 when speed is reduced
      4. full flaps and turn to final (usually simultaneous)


      End of the Day

      1. general inspection and wipe-down
      2. flashlight inspection of EDF blades looking for chips. We had an HSD viper explode at the field this weekend due to fan failure. Luckily the pilot was just taxiing when it let go. The shroud did not contain the shrapnel !!!!!!! <------important safety point. Never stand abeam a running EDF or turbine unit.

      About every 20 or so flights

      1. remove and clean EDF unit. We fly off grass so … there you go.
      2. check everything.
      Meridian Aeromodelers, Meridian MS

      Comment


      • #4
        Hey guys, join us this Friday on our live show where we will be talking about all of this:

        Comment


        • #5
          If everyone at our club would check the following, we'd have less than half the crashes:
          Transmitter batteries have enough juice (2 dead transmitters mid flight in the last 6 weeks)
          Proper rates/throws
          Control surfaces free and correct
          CG
          Solid light on receiver

          There are others, but these account for a ton of crashes at our field and it's stuff guys know. Complacency is a dangerous thing. Looking forward to this video.

          Comment


          • #6
            So simple yet so true The Sheriff
            My YouTube RC videos:
            https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCDZ..._bdGEJBmtV7YUw

            Comment


            • #7
              Alpha's list is pretty comprehensive, but missing one very important item:

              Check your failsafe!

              In other words, you need to verify that when the radio link is lost, the RX does something smart (like cutting power and entering a turn). This is easily checked by simply turning off the transmitter (while the aircraft is in a safely restrained condition, and/or all props/blades removed).

              Checking failsafe is especially important if you are flying FrSky equipment (which does not have fixed channel assignments). There are three ways to setup FrSky failsafe: 1.) no pulses, 2.) hold last position, and 3.) go to a pre-set position. This is a flexible and powerful feature, but with power comes responsibility! e.g. I learned this lesson the hard way...

              I had a Tarot 450 Sport heli fly away last year because I had failed to do this check - (the installed FrSky X6R receiver failsafe setting was evidently set to "Hold last position" - which, unfortunately, included the throttle channel). I felt helpless, stupid and irresponsible while I watched my heli slowly circle up, up and away. I followed it as best I could, but it disappeared over my neighbor's farm fields with about two minutes of battery left. I searched the area but never found it. I think the cause of the link loss was due to the antennaes coming loose and getting chewed up by the main gear. Note that I did notify my neighbor about the heli - and it gave me an excuse to meet him and his wife (I'm new to the area having moved here two years ago) - one positive thing to come out of this misadventure.

              From now on, explicitly setting and checking the RX failsafe is one of my highest priority checklist items.

              Just sayin'!

              Comment

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