#1 Aircraft Familiarization and Preparation for Flight


To determine your practical working knowledge of the aircraft with respect to documents, performance, and loading, and to assess your ability as a pilot to make a practical determination of whether or nor the aircraft is ready for flight.

This exercise is divided into four parts as follows:

Documents and Airworthiness

Here the Examiner will ask that you determine and demonstrate the validity of the documents required on board the aircraft.  This will include an assessment of your ability to determine if all required maintenance certifications have been completed—i.e., you will be asked to determine if the Certificate of Airworthiness is in force.1  

This is almost identical to the questions you received during the pre-flight test examination for your private pilot licence.

It is generally easy to determine the time requirements of the “in phase” maintenance requirements of the 50-hr and 100-hr inspections (required by the manufacturer), but is less easy to determine the “out of phase” items such as the compass swinging, pitot-static system testing, or the fire extinguisher certification; normally you would have to closely study historic entries in the Aircraft Journey Log, but there is a simpler method to trace out-of-phase items in commercial items.

In particular, all commercial aircraft normally have what is referred to as an Aircraft Status Board, which records both the date at which maintenance on out-of-phase items was completed, and additionally the future date at which the maintenance must be repeated.

A second requirement of a commercial aircraft is the Maintenance Control Manual (MCM), a copy of which must be placed on board each aircraft.  Have a look at it when you get the chance.  The MCM describes the items and time cycles associated with each out-of-phase item, and it also contains the scheduled (“in phase”) inspections that are completed at regular airtime cycles.  The MCM also outlines the rules and regulations that govern all maintenance tasks on the operator’s aircraft.

Aeroplane Systems and Performance

Here the Examiner will examine your practical knowledge of the aircraft’s performance capabilities, approved operating procedures, limitations, and aircraft systems.

You will have to know from memory the following speeds:

  1. stall speed in a landing configuration
  2. one engine inoperative best rate-of-climb
  3. manoeuvring speed
  4. minimum control speed
  5. maximum landing gear extension
  6. maximum flap extension speed
  7. intentional one engine inoperative speed

The flight must be discontinued if you cannot produce these speeds from memory, so be sure you are conversant with them.

Other aspects of aircraft performance can be derived from the POH, but you should be familiar with the location of information and data in the various sections of the POH.

You must demonstrate a practical knowledge of the aircraft’s systems.

Note that the GURW’s Horizontal Situation Indicator (HSI—which replaces the Heading Indicator that is normally found in the flight-instrument cluster) is electrically power, so that an electrical failure would render this useless.2  Note also that the compass mounted above the glareshield is in fact the secondary compass—the primary compass is located behind the rear cabin bulkhead, and it automatically adjusts the HSI during flight to maintain its accuracy (the HSI is therefore “slaved.”)

Note the load limits on the alternators3 and be aware the pilot who has experienced an engine failure—and is therefore left with only one functioning alternator—should take action to reduce the electrical load and protect the only remaining alternator.4   Electrical power would be required for lowering the gear (although the emergency override is not dependent on electrical power), and electric fuel pump back-up.

Weight and Balance Loading

Here the Examiner will assess your ability to determine if the takeoff and landing weight of the aircraft, as well as the associated Centre of Gravity locations, are within permissible limits for the flight test.5

You will also be assessed on your knowledge and ability to correct an out-of-limit Centre of Gravity or an excessive gross weight situation.

Finally, you will be examined with respect to your knowledge of the effects of various Centre of Gravity locations and their effect on flight characteristics. 6

It is important to prepare in advance here.

Firstly, have the takeoff weight and Centre of Gravity locations for takeoff and the anticipated landing pencilled in on a photocopy of the graph (weight and balance envelope) that appears on Page 5-9 of the POH;7 a line should join the two, indicating the general movement of the Centre of Gravity during the flight.

Also, be sure that you pre-calculate the accelerate/stop distance for ambient conditions using the graph that appears on Page 9-6 of the POH.8

Be sure you know the formula to determine flight range of single-engine performance—the Critical Point Formula.9

Engine Starting and Run-Up, Use of Checklist

Evaluation by the Examiner starts here with your passenger briefing, and if you follow the outline contained in Appendix II  you can’t go wrong with respect to content.  Be sure you advise your passenger with respect to using the rear door as an alternate means of exiting the aircraft—in the case, for example, of a starboard wing fire.  The ELT on the Seneca also has a remote switch and your passenger should know how to work this, as well as the manual switch located directly on the ELT itself.

Look also to the Examiner asking you the actions you would take in the event of unsatisfactory items on the checklist—e.g., a bad alternator, an unserviceable attitude indicator, etc.

Assessment for this portion of the flight test is based on the following:

  1. accuracy in the procedures used;
  2. thoroughness in checks;
  3. appropriate responses to unsatisfactory conditions;
  4. effectiveness of passenger safety briefings.

Be especially cautious here with respect to checklist use, as failure to use the checklist during this portion of the flight test will constitute a failure.


It goes without saying that you must not rush this portion of the flight test—that is not to say that efficiency is not important (efficiency is a sign of experience), but there are no points for speed.  Instead, you will be praised for accuracy and caution.

1. Airworthiness must be determined by examining the Certificate of Airworthiness, and then ensuring that the schedule of maintenance required for the aircraft has not lapsed.  To determine this, the Aircraft Journey Log must be examined to determine the required maintenance schedule.  The Seneca Journey Log will show the required 50-hr., 100-hr, and 500-hr scheduled (in-phase) maintenance events.  The School also maintains an Aircraft Status Display which summarizes both the in-phase and out-of-phase status of required maintenance items.  Remember that privately owned aircraft only require an annual inspection to keep the aircraft airworthy.  Of course, an aircraft that has exceeded its maintenance schedule (whether a 100-hour inspection, or an annual inspection) cannot be flown as the aircraft is legally not airworthy; such flight would be illegal, and the aircraft insurance would be void.  Finally, you must examine the “remarks” section of the Aircraft Journey Log to determine if any unserviceabilities or defects exist, and whether that has warranted the grounding of the aircraft.  If any defect occurs on a commercial aircraft, and they have been deferred until the next scheduled maintenance, the defects must be entered in the Deferred Defects List that appears in the front of the Journey Log of Langley Flying School aircraft.  The equipment required on board an aircraft for various conditions of flight is specified in CARs 605.14 through 605.18, and these must be consulted with respect to the affects of defects—these appear, incidentally, RAC ANNEX of the AIM.

2. The HI mounted in the right-seat instrument cluster is vacuum powered, and will therefore function despite an electrical failure.

3. See p. 2-12 of the POH.

4. This is especially critical during IFR in IMC conditions.

5. Be sure to use the Pre-flight Worksheet that appears in Appendix I.

6. Weight, Balance and Performance: The heavier the aircraft, the greater the lift required from the wing throughout the speed range.  Consider, for example, two identical aircraft, one lightly loaded and the second heavily loaded.  If both are flying at the same indicated airspeed, it is clear that the heavier aircraft must have a higher angle of attack (to produce the extra lift) than the lighter aircraft.  For a given speed, including speeds just above the stall, it must be that the angle of attack of the heavier aircraft is closer to the critical stall angle of attack than the light aircraft—it follows, therefore, that the lighter an aircraft, the slower its stall speed.  The same argument as above can be applied to fuel economy.  That is, the aircraft with a lower angle of attack for a given speed must have less induced drag and therefore less thrust (fuel burn) will be required.  The location of the C of G with respect to whether it is forward or rearward also affects aircraft performance.  While an aircraft takes-off with a specific ramp weight, once it leaves the ground the effective “negative” lift of the horizontal stabilizer increasing the aircraft’s “aerodynamic weight.”  If a C of G is located forward, the negative lift of the tail will have to be increased to balance the forward weight, and as the negative lift is increased, the aerodynamic weight, overall, is increased.  For the same reason, an aircraft with a forward C of G will have a higher stall speed than the aircraft with a rearward C of G.  Conversely, a forward C of G loading has a positive effect with respect to stability—an aircraft with heavy tail loading will be more stable in recovering from a pitch-down attitude—the associated acceleration from a nose-down attitude will activate a greater amount of horizontal stabilizer weight, thereby making it easier to raise the nose.  Also, at the point of stall, a forward C of G will make recovery easier—the pilot has more pitch authority on the control column than is the case with a rearward C of G.  These features, of course, are related to loading variations within limits.  An aircraft loaded outside limits is simply dangerous.  Always ensure weight and balance is within limits—if it is not and you have an accident, your insurance will not cover property or personal liability.

7. And in Appendix I of this Manual.

8. A copy of this also appears in the Appendix I Pre-flight Worksheet.

9. The Critical Point formula allows you to calculate the point along a given route that will guide your actions in the event of an engine failure.  At any time before the critical point is reached, a pilot faced with an engine failure will turn around and return on the remaining engine or engines to the point of departure (it is faster for the pilot to return than to go on);  beyond the critical point, the pilot will continue at reduced airspeed to the planned destination.  Obviously, given a preponderance of alternate airports, a pilot in trouble would divert, but the Critical Point formula assumes that alternates are not an option.  The formula is as follows:

Distance to

Critical Point    =    D  ×  H(r)

                             O(r) + H(r)


    D  =     total distance of flight.

H(r)  =     reduced (single engine) speed home (to point of departure).

O(r)  =    reduced (single engine) speed out  (to destination).

The reduced, single-engine speed should be made 105 MPH IAS—Vyse for the aircraft.  The reduced single-engine airspeed, however, must be converted to groundspeed, and therefore corrected for the winds.  Since the courses are reciprocal—home and out—the winds will affect the groundspeeds differently.  How to remember this formula—”Don’t Hurry Off Home.”  Since the numerator must be larger than the denominator, the multiplication is done on the top.  To convert the critical point to time, divide the critical point distance by the outbound normal cruise groundspeed.