Who Did The Preflight?


was tired of renting from the local FBO and needed a larger airplane, anyway, for the growing family, so I looked at a few flying clubs. One situation caught my eye, in which a long-time owner wasn’t flying his big Cessna much and wanted to form a club around it. I was game, and met the owner and another prospective club member at the airplane one day.

After poking and prodding it, he asked if we wanted to fly it. I was the high-time and most-current pilot among us, so I agreed to the left seat. We mounted up, cranked up and taxied out. The run-up was unremarkable and soon I rolled onto the non-towered airport’s runway and applied full power for takeoff. Right about the time the end of the runway slid beneath us on initial climb, engine oil started appearing on the windscreen. This was going to be a short test flight.

I didn’t know what the exact problem was, but it didn’t matter right then: The relatively clean but translucent oil was distorting my view out the front of the airplane. I reduced power in the climb to pattern altitude and soon was on final approach to the runway we had just left. I was having real difficulty making out touchdown zone details. Oil was starting to streak past my window, and slipping the airplane to get a better runway view wasn’t very effective. In the end, I flared too high and dropped in the airplane. The landing gear passed its part of the flight test.

We taxied back to parking, shut down, got out and gazed at what appeared to be a lot of engine oil streamed down the fuselage. A quick check of the oil dipstick revealed the problem: No one had secured it before engine start.

The whole thing was my fault: I didn’t properly execute my role as pilot in command to verify all preflight checks were complete and the airplane was ready to fly. I let the confusion generated by two other pilots who did one thing or another to the airplane before engine start lull me into a false sense of security at a time when I should have been much more proactive.

Some things can be forgotten on a preflight inspection and you can get away with it. Properly securing the engine oil dipstick is not one of them.

Learning Experiences

Have you encountered a situation or hazardous condition that yielded lessons on how to better manage the risks involved in flying? Do you have an experience to share with Aviation Safety’s readers about an occasion that taught you something significant about ways to conduct safer flight operations? If so, we want to hear about it.

We encourage you to submit a brief (500 words) write-up of your Learning Experience to Aviation Safety for possible publication. Each month, Aviation Safety publishes a collection of similar experiences sent to us by readers. Sharing with others the benefit of your experience and the lessons you learned can be an invaluable aid to other pilots.

You can send your account directly to the editor by e-mailing it to [email protected]. Put “Learning Experience Submission” in the subject line; add your name and daytime telephone number at the bottom of the e-mail.

Your report will be considered for publication in the Aviation Safety’s readers’ forum, “Learning Experiences,” and may be edited for style and length. Anonymity is guaranteed if you want it. No one but Aviation Safety’s editor is permitted access to the reports. Your name and telephone number are requested only so that the editor can contact you, if necessary.

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