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Preflight Check

How to Preflight Your Airplane:

In this topic, we’ll cover how to do a proper preflight on a Piper Cherokee.  Most airplanes have similar preflight operations, with just a few differences depending on the specific systems installed on that particular plane.

Each airplane has a manual with it, located in the airplane. This manual referred to as Pilot’s Operating Handbook or “POH”.  Inside the POH you’ll find a dedicated section on how to specifically inspect your particular aircraft.

An example of the preflight section in a POH is below.

Notes on performing a preflight


Do a “once over” as you walk towards the aircraft. You have a different vantage point here as compared to the rest of your preflight, which may be beneficial for identifying issues such as bent or damaged landing gear, struts, wings, etc…

Perform an “ARROW” check once you get to the airplane. Ensure the airworthiness certificate, radio operators license (if required), aircraft registration, operating limitation documents (usually found in the Pilots Operating Handbook “POH” or Airplane Flight Manual “AFM”), and the aircraft weight and balance are in the aircraft.

As you finish your initial cockpit checks, turn on the battery switch to check fuel quantity indications. It can be helpful to do this before manually checking the tanks as it will allow you to cross-reference if the fuel gauges are reading accurately. This also serves as a good point to lower the flaps and turn on all aircraft lighting. If checking lights, do a preliminary walk around to check them and then turn the battery off to conserve battery throughout the rest of your preflight.

Before leaving the cockpit for your exterior walkaround with the checklist in-hand, ensure the keys are not in the ignition. The dash is a great place to have keys located during your walkaround so both you and others operating around the aircraft, such as a fueler, know the keys are not in the ignition.

How to Preflight any Airplane

  • Conduct an exterior walkaround
  • Check fuel and oil
  • Look at the overall condition of the airplane (is it the way the manufacturer intended it to be?)
  • Use all checklists and POH guidance

Aviation Fuel

Your airplane most likely only runs on one specific type of fuel.  You should see what type listed in the POH and/or on a placard (sticker) next to the fuel cap.

Aviation Fuel Colors

Jet A = Clear

100LL = Blue

100 = Green

80 = Red

Careful, water is clear, too!