A Pilot’s Perspective: Pre-flight


This is a Hipmunk guest post from Scott Simko, a U.S. Commercial Airline pilot of over 15 years. His views and opinions are his and his alone and do not represent the airline of his employment or Hipmunk.

Once the aircraft arrives, we kick it into another gear. Passengers deplane, cockpit and cabin crews swap, workers service the aircraft (cleaned, fueled, stocked with food/drinks) and new passengers board — all in 30 to 40 minutes.

Usually the first officer (co-pilot) heads down to do the walk-around, which is an exterior inspection of the aircraft to see if it’s airworthy. He’s looking to see if anything needs to be serviced (e.g., tire condition and pressure, hydraulic, oil or fuel leaks) or repaired while inspecting the general condition of all parts (windows, metal parts, etc.).

Once all the passengers deplane, the flight attendants (F/As) go through and do their pre-flight checks (they check all the emergency equipment for condition and currency) and we meet as a team if we haven’t done so yet. The captain sets the tone for the flight and briefs the F/As on any MELs (you remember from my earlier post) that might affect them, or weather conditions that might alter the service.

From there, the pilots jump into the cockpit to verify every switch is in the proper position, test every light works, and confirm everything has been serviced (oil, oxygen, hydraulics, fuel). We aren’t the sort to trust anything until we’ve checked it ourselves.

We make sure aircraft maintenance records are in proper order and that the fueler paperwork matches what we requested and what the gauges say. Next we verify our requested route with the clearance we receive from Air Traffic Control (ATC) and load it into the Flight Management Computers (FMCs). And just in case, we get out any maps we’ll need for the flight as a backup for our navigation computers.

At this point, the last passengers are boarding, the CSRs are double-checking we don’t need anything, and we are about to close all the doors.

In my next post, we’ll hopefully be getting airborne. If you have any questions please feel free to ask them in the comments.

The image above is from the movie Airplane I hope no one gets mad at me for using it.

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