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getting going In the fourth of his series on operating light jets, Nick Heard discusses the importance of being earnest in your pre-flight preparation


ERHAPS the main philosophy that a new owner/operator should follow in flying a light jet is the ubiquitous ‘Prior Planning Prevents Poor Performance’ – an extra ‘P’ word can be added, of course. Everything happens a lot faster in a jet compared to a piston type and flight preparation will help you get ahead of the aircraft, rather than finishing up miles behind it. As an airline pilot I have lots of advantages in operating my jet – flight planning completed by other staff, engineering support, regular handling practice, no concerns about other business commitments, and tiredness (to some extent) under control with a flight time limitation scheme. As a single pilot owner/operator, you need to be able to look after yourself much more with procedures that you can fall on to cater for a trip on that worst day – the end of a long tiring day, perhaps, having failed to complete a deal, night time, icing conditions, maximum range trip home, with weather forecast to be borderline. These are the trips where links in the chain of a potential incident can start to join up, so it’s vital to be able to shut off whatever has happened during the day and focus on the flight in hand. In the airline world we tend to try to do everything the same way every trip. This becomes a cockpit routine which becomes very familiar and which will pick up items in the sequence that need to looked at. You will have seen how to get the jet going during your conversion training, and it’s important to follow that guidance. You should now introduce the other operational aspects into those procedures to set up the full picture. There are many ways to ‘skin the cat’ of flight preparation, but here are some ideas based on what I do.

Flight Planning Flight Planning is ideally done in a warm building with all the relevant information available; clearly an FBO is the ideal. This gives you the opportunity to check the weather (Departure, En-route, Destination, and Alternates) and NOTAM to decide your fuel plan – can you make it to your destination, bearing in mind headwinds and ATC restrictions, with enough fuel to divert to the alternate

with your required reserves? If it’s tight, do you have a plan to drop into an en-route airport to refuel? Is that airport open, and are you familiar with its procedures? Whatever the final solution, a flight plan needs to be filed (this can be done much earlier, of course), a process which should be reasonably easily completed with the help of the FBO staff. Alternatively, of course, there are commercial organisations who you can call to arrange all aspects of flight planning for you.

Aircraft Preparation Having got to the aircraft you can set about getting it ready to go. An early decision should be made on de-icing if it’s that sort of day – even to clear just frost. Those beautiful smooth laminar flow wings are very prone to losing their lift qualities with ice on them, so do not ignore the issue – make arrangements to get de-icing completed as close as possible to departure time. Complete a walkround of the aircraft in the usual way, being extra careful to remove pitot covers and gear pins.

Operational Preparation We can now focus on getting the aircraft cockpit set up for our flight. A suggested sequence of events to follow is as follows: 1 ATIS Get out the airport chart and note down the ATIS for the airfield, if available. You will then know departure runway in use, the weather (including surface wind), and QNH (set it now), so you can then start to work out which SID is likely for your airways route. If there is no ATIS, ask ATC for the information. 2 Navigation System Now set up the route in the navigation kit. There are various flight management systems, of course, but the general idea is to enter your airways route, joining it up with the departure SID, and (for a very short trip) perhaps enter the expected STAR and approach for the destination airport – this will take some of the load off when airborne. Enter any other relevant information into the box, perhaps some take-off data and planned cruise level, and cross-check that the FMS ‘legs’ page is the same as your flight plan routing to avoid confusion with ATC. Tune any navaids required for the SID, if required. 3 Cockpit Setup With the nav kit ready, now is the time to check

ABOUT THE AUTHOR Nick Heard has been flying jet and turboprop aircraft for nearly 30 years, from the Jet Provost, Hawk, and Tornado GR1 while a pilot in the UK RAF, to the Dornier 328, Fokker 50, and Boeing 747-400 in civilian life, and has experience in the Dassault Falcon 7X and 2000LX. He is Sales Associate at brokers

around the cockpit as per the checklist. Align the flight director and autopilot systems with the what has gone into the box, such as the heading bug (runway heading or first SID heading), speed ‘bug’ to initial climb speed after take-off (eg V2), and altitude set to the first ‘stop’ altitude for the SID. Set radio frequencies up in expected sequence (eg Delivery/Ground/Tower). 4 Self Briefing You can hopefully now obtain an airways clearance from ATC. If that is not available (which may well be the case if you are departing from a quiet GA airfield), consider at what point you will attempt to get it once airborne – ideally in some low workload period, such as initial cruise. Whichever way exists, take a few moments to brief yourself now on start up, taxy, take-off, and departure to cruise level, to mentally visualise the events of this first high-workload period. Note parking position and expected taxy routing. Consider the take-off point on the runway (perhaps from an intersection), and think about your actions if you were to abort your takeoff from high speed. Refer to the SID chart (if relevant) to review the departure sequence – initial headings, altitudes, speeds, and widen that to encompass terrain considerations (relevant MSA), weather conditions (such as icing or thunderstorm activity), and any unusual operational considerations. Finally, modern cockpit management techniques suggest now carrying out a final review of the major threats that will affect the initial part of the flight, such as crossing an active runway whilst taxying or taking off into an area affected by high terrain, and considering strategies to negate these threats. All this is completed much more easily before engine start!

Ready to start

MAIN IMAGE: Author Nick Heard at the helm of a Falcon business jet.

So after all this, we are now ready to start engines and get going, which will be the next article. All I have detailed above are some basic considerations for setting up a modern light jet for an IFR flight. What I am trying to emphasise is to get as much as possible done on the ground before starting to turn any turbine blades. The moment we release the brakes, situations may not necessarily remain under our control, so it’s really best to have as much sewn up as possible before that happens. In the next article we can look at the flight itself.


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P1 February 2011  

P1 is Loop Publishing's business aviation magazine, published bi-monthly. It brings alive the glamorous, exciting world of business jets, tu...

P1 February 2011  

P1 is Loop Publishing's business aviation magazine, published bi-monthly. It brings alive the glamorous, exciting world of business jets, tu...