Fellow blogger and pilot Jeffrey Synk recently tweeted: “The biggest, number 1 secret to a successful single-engine IFR flight…you ready? Organization…from preparation to engine shutdown.” He’s right, and it’s not just limited to single-engine or even IFR flights. Careful preflight planning reduces pilot workload and take the surprises out of the most challenging flights. We all know the basics of flight planning, from pilotage to dead reckoning and radio navigation, but there’s more to think about when we plan a trip than what was covered in flight school.
- What’s the trend? Take a close look at the forecast, particularly the ceiling and visibility in the TAF. At the time of your arrival, is the weather trending up or down? Maybe it’s better to delay the flight, or leave earlier. If the weather drops below minimums before you arrive, are things expected to get worse or better over time? This could have a direct effect on your decision to divert early (saving fuel) or later.
- What runway will I takeoff and land on? A good look at the airport diagrams along with the forecast winds should give you a pretty good idea as to which runways are going to be preferred.
- Pre-plan the taxi route. Take a close look at the airport diagram and determine the best or most likely routes to and from the runways. This is especially important when landing at a large and unfamiliar airport. Should you turn left or right off the runway? Which FBO do I need? How do I expect to get there? Read more about this here.
- What if I can’t get in? Often, filing an alternate is neither required nor desired, but that doesn’t mean that you will be able to land. Sometimes runways close unexpectedly, or the weather changes earlier than forecast. You ought to have some idea as to where you might go if things aren’t working out. For example, what’s the closest airport with an ILS? Do you have enough fuel to make it?
- Can I get fuel? We all know those little crosses on sectional charts mean the airport has fuel available right? Guess what: that’s not always the case. Be sure to call the FBO in advance and make sure that fuel is actually going to be available. Getting there late? Make sure the place is going to be staffed or you may find yourself stranded next to a locked up fuel pump!