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Preflight

By Gregory Rheeder, EAA 1003189

As I reached down to pick up my helmet, the phrase, “preflight, preflight,” rang over and over in my head. It was a warm summer day, and the conditions were just right for a quick flight around the rolling country side of mid-Michigan’s Napoleon Airport (3NP).
 
I had just finished laying out my chute. If I hurried, I’d be able to get a couple of hours in the seat of my Powrachute PC2000. I remembered yelling to my friend Todd to be aware of the slight crosswind as he did his final chute preparation. He just smiled and said thanks.

At the hangar we share with six other pilots, I’ve become somewhat of a self-appointed safety advocate, reminding others to be sure to use their printed preflight instructions. I really don’t know where these particular instructions came from or who wrote them down for us. I know that over the years they’ve been subject to change, usually because of something that someone notices or when we have an issue with an area not addressed in the original writing. Like the year one of our pilots in training had a rear wheel bearing slip over its retaining nut – this led to his tire nearly falling off in flight. What a white-knuckle landing that was. Lucky for him the wheel stayed put under the weight of the plane while touching down.

My list now includes a closer inspection of the wheels and their related fasteners.

Among the best selling points I found for powered parachutes (PPCs) are the safety factors involved with PPC flight. Most accidents and incidents I researched involved pilot error, not engine loss on takeoff or structural failure in flight. That meant that if I was the best pilot I could be and took care to do proper preflight, the plane would take care of itself, so to speak.

I’ve also discovered not everything might be on a preflight checklist. That takes us back to the beginning of that evening’s flight. First, I was in a bit of a hurry to get in the air. Second, I was picking up my helmet because it blew off my head on throttle-up; I didn’t properly buckle it while the engine was warming up. I don’t know how, but it managed to miss the blades of my prop. I now include a helmet-strap check in my rolling preflight.

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