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It takes more than good piloting skills to complete a flight safely and on time. Preparations made before take-off also play an important role in ensuring the success of a flight. One of the first things that any piloting student will learn about their future responsibilities is how to plan a flight. During the flight planning stage, pilots fill out a document that details their flight plans, which includes basic information like departure and arrival points, estimated time en route, the type of flight taken (instrument flight rules [IFR] or visual flight rules [VFR]), the number of people on board, the pilot’s information, and the aircraft’s information, among others.

Although filling out the form is a fairly straightforward task, making sure that the information is and stays correct during the flight will be a challenge. Not following the flight plan may incur a deviation or worse, put the lives of everyone on board in danger. Fortunately, there are several things that pilots can do to plan a good flight.

If you’re a pilot who needs a refresher on planning a successful flight or a student pilot who wants to learn how to plan for one, here are four practices recommended by top aviation institution Alpha Aviation Group (AAG):

Locate Your Take-Off and Landing Runways

The first thing you want to do is locate your take-off and landing runways. Even though air traffic control has the final say on which runways you’ll take, you can predict which ones will likely be chosen by using your flight planner. Typically, the runway with the most headwind will be used, but if not, you should adjust your plan accordingly.

Knowing your take-off and landing runways will ensure that you’re using the right airport maps during your flight. This allows you to get a good idea of the layout of the runways so you can take off and make your descent smoothly.

Study Your Flight Route

If you’re working for an airline that uses a preferential bidding system, you’ll be able to bid for a flight route that suits your preferences. However, this system usually gravitates towards the requests of senior pilots. That means that if you haven’t reached senior status, you’ll most likely be assigned a different route.

All the same, it will be your duty as a pilot to study your flight route and prepare for it. One thing that will make preps easier is staying up to date with the weather. Even if the flight plan was made in advance, sudden changes in the weather may necessitate some adjustments.

You should also check if you have permission to fly through the airspace of all the countries involved in your flight. If they allow you to enter their airspace, study the countries’ fly-over waypoints and make sure that they’re included in the plan. If not, again, make the necessary modifications.

Check the Plane’s Weight, Fuel, and Engine Settings

It will be impossible to start your flight if the aircraft isn’t ready. Among your duties as a pilot is ensuring that the plane is in tip-top shape before you take off. To do this, you’ll want to know which aspects of the aircraft to check.

The aircraft’s weight, for example, must be within the acceptable weight limit because an overloaded plane will have difficulty getting airborne and become off-balanced when making its descent. The plane must also be properly fueled up, as well as have the right amount of legal fuel reserves, to ensure that it has enough fuel to complete the flight. What’s more, you should ensure that the plane’s engine is set to the proper power settings. This way, you’ll be able to fly the plane efficiently without consuming too much fuel or eating up costs for your operator.

Always Do Your Pre-Flight Check Procedures

One thing you can never skip when planning a successful flight is a thorough pre-flight check. This procedure is part of a pilot’s standard operating procedure (SOP), and it’s designed to help you inspect the aircraft’s condition before taking off. The checklist includes a survey of the different facets in the cabin, empennage, nose, and the plane’s right and left wings to verify that they’re all good. If you’re having difficulty remembering the things you should check in your particular aircraft, don’t hesitate to consult your pilot’s operating handbook.

Conducting a pre-flight check is mandatory, so expect to do it every time you’re handling an assignment. Even if you’ve done it a hundred times before, it’s a procedure you shouldn’t be complacent about because the aircraft has to be in good enough condition to ensure the safety of everyone onboard.

Learning Proper Flight Planning and Aviation Discipline with AAG

Flight planning is a process that demands a lot of discipline and thoughtfulness on the part of the pilot. The goal is always to start and complete the flight without running into any problems and keeping passengers and crew safe at all times.

If you’re an aspiring student pilot who wants to learn more about the procedures of planning a successful flight, as well as the other duties of a pilot, check out AAG’s pilot training solutions. AAG is the Philippines’ premier provider of high-quality pilot training solutions, offering world-class pilot training programs like the AAG First Officer Transition (FOT) Program™, Multi-Crew Pilot License (MPL) Program, and Ab-Initio CAAV Program. Get in touch with AAG today to enroll in a course that will fortify both your piloting skills and your practice of aviation discipline.