Managing Flying Risk – Preparing for Flight
Preparing for flight is a crucially important process involving both the pilot and the glider (or other aircraft).
It is the responsibility of the pilot in command to ensure before flight that the aircraft is airworthy and prepared for flight (reference Sailplane Air Operations rules).
Time. Always give yourself time to prepare you and your glider.
Fit to fly? Confirm you are fit to fly using the ‘I’m Safe’ mnemonic. There’s more detail here. If in doubt, stay on the ground.
Current? Check out the currency barometer here.
Legal? Consider licensing recency (where applicable) and validity of medical declaration or certificate as required.
Aware? Weather, airspace, NOTAMs, site operations, field condition, etc.
Familiar with the glider? Even the same types have differences with rigging details, equipment and canopy jettison. The pilot in command must ensure that the operating limitations of an aircraft, as specified in the Aircraft Flight Manual, will not be exceeded at any time during the flight.
Legal? ARC, annual inspection and insurance must be valid.
Familiar with the safety equipment? Parachute, FLARM, other.
Weight and balance? Aircraft loading limitations inc with water ballast are detailed in the AFM and weighing schedule supported by a cockpit placard. Fixed cockpit ballast weights can be used as required. When an additional margin of safety is required, eg during type conversion and for inexperienced pilots, an effective cockpit load (say 10-15 kgs) in excess of the placard minimum should be established.
Rigged correctly? Please take a look at the safe rigging information here. The Aircraft Flight Manual details how to rig a glider.
Daily inspection including positive control check complete and documented? It is a requirement to check before flight that a glider’s flying controls are connected. If unsure about the detail, use the Aircraft Flight Manual. It’s good practice to complete a positive control check on all gliders and, because of known human factors, it is essential for gliders without automatically connecting controls. Please note that the Aircraft Flight Manuals for many gliders with automatic connecting controls require a positive control check as part of the DI (eg Schleicher, Jonkers, DG, etc). Documenting and signing for the DI helps to avoid incorrect assumptions about completing the task.
Pre-flight walk around completed? An important last chance external check…
Pre-takeoff cockpit checks should be carried out carefully using an established checklist. Distraction is a common cause of error. Rushing due to time pressure is also a common cause of error. Both of those causal factors can be addressed to reduce the risk. If the pre-takeoff checks are interrupted for any reason, the checks should be restarted and completed with care.
The BGA sailplane recommended pre-takeoff checklist is:
C CONTROLS working fully and freely and in the correct sense
B BALLAST securely fastened; correct cockpit load
S STRAPS for all occupants correctly locked and tight
I INSTRUMENTS appear serviceable and set as required
F FLAPS check operation and set for take-off
T TRIM check operation and set for take-off
B BRAKES check operation, closed and locked
E EVENTUALITIES consider launch failure and other options
C CANOPY closed, locked and doesn’t open with applied pressure