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Preflight Prep and the PAVE Checklist

Preflight Prep and the PAVE Checklist, March 2017Last year, 384 people died in 238 general aviation accidents, and inadequate preflight preparation was cited as a contributing factor in many of the accidents, according to the FAA Safety Briefing.

Preflight preparation of your aircraft is a crucial step in helping to ensure your safety, and the safety of your plane and your passengers.

Here’s a review of preflight prep and the PAVE checklist, courtesy of Sarina Houston at

The PAVE checklist

Pilots are familiar with acronyms, and the PAVE checklist is an important personal minimums checklist for pilots to use during the preflight planning stage of a flight. The letters of the PAVE acronym stand for different risks associated with flying: personal, aircraft, environment and external pressures.

As part of the pre-flight risk management process, potential risk factors should be identified and the pilot should decide what his or her personal minimums for flight should be based on his or her own self-assessment. Every pilot will have different minimums based on their own flying experiences, in addition to other factors such as health habits and tolerance for stress.

Keep in mind that a pilot’s personal minimums will change over time as he or she becomes more comfortable in a particular airplane or environment. But personal minimums should never be modified or reduced in order to takeoff before a thorough risk assessment has been completed.

Personal: Personal minimums analyze both the health and experience of the pilot. A deeper view can be found using the I’M SAFE checklist. This is taught early in flight training and is used throughout a pilot’s professional career to assess their overall readiness for flight when it comes to illness, medication, stress, alcohol, fatigue, and emotion.

Some personal questions a pilot should ask include: Did you get enough sleep to function optimally? How is your health? Have you been ill lately or taking any medications? How many flight hours have you logged in the particular aircraft you are flying? How many flight hours have you flown in the past week, month and year?

Aircraft: Pilots should determine and ensure that their plane is airworthy. Was it inspected recently? Do you have enough fuel for your journey? Are you comfortable with the weight, balance and performance of the aircraft? Do you know the aircraft’s limitations? Do you have the most up-to-date GPS and charts?

Environment: These questions include: What’s the weather forecast for your path and are you comfortable flying in those weather conditions? Have you explored alternative flight path options? Are you fluent and comfortable using the instruments? Are you aware of the approaches available and are you proficient for each alternative?

Also, did you check PIREPs and NOTAMs? Are you at comfortable flying in busy airspace or on edge about the air traffic control situation? Does the aircraft have heat or air conditioning? Are you familiar with the terrain?

External Pressures: Are you feeling stressed or anxious? Will this flight make you feel that way? Are you being pressured to get to your destination quickly? Are your passengers difficult? Are your passengers exhibiting unsafe or distracting behavior? Are you being honest with yourself and others about your pilot abilities and limitations?

With the PAVE checklist, pilots have a simple way to remember each personal minimum category to identify risk before departure and assist in their decision-making process.

Sources: FAA Safety Briefing and

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