Pilots, Start your engines!

DC-3 in taxiwayNot so fast! We don't just start the engines, taxi out, and take off.

There are a number of tasks to attend to before lifting your DC-3 off the ground. The outcome of skipping the pre-flight tasks varies from a sloppy flight to a full-blown disaster.

Flying beats book-learning

An enjoyable way to increase your flight proficiency is with a simple flight where you can concentrate on the various flight segments. A thirty-minute VFR flight from Newport State, R.I. to Provincetown, Mass., on the tip of Cape Cod, will be perfect. Submit your time for this flight on the PIREP form ... Flight No. is 1200-PVC.

There are two types of flights, VFR and IFR. As mentioned, this flight will be VFR. If you are unfamiliar with these flight types, go to the Navigation Tutorial, Basics for an explanation. VFR and IFR flight criteria are critically important. They establish the rules for your flight.

An important pre-flight task is to understand the flight ahead of you.

The familiarization flight, 1200-PVC

Go to the weather page, ALT-W-W, and set the weather to "Clear Skies." (Select "weather themes" at top of page, then click "Clear Skies" then click OK.

You will take off from Runway 4, Newport State, airport ID=KUUU, and climb to 5500 ft. Turn right to 065° after departure and fly to the Plymouth NDB, FFF, 257.0. Watch the magnetic bearing on the RMI and maintain 065° until reaching FFF NDB. Turn right to 085° and then intercept the localizer to Provincetown's Runway 7, 111.1 MHz, when the signal is received. On intercepting the localizer, turn to center the needle and track the localizer inbound to land at Provincetown, KPVC.

The localizer is a component of the Instrument Landing System, ILS. Go to this section of the Navigation Tutorial, ILS for more information.

If you have FSNavigator, plot the course so that you will have a graphical image of the flight. Click here to download the FSNavigator flightplan for this first flight. You will use 1200-PVC.fsn for this flight.


Use a checklist similar to this before every flight.

The Engine Run-Up

Those who have flown on propeller airliners are familiar with the engine run-up. It derives its name from the pilot running the engines up for tests before takeoff. In the old days the pilot did the run-up tests at a pull-off area just before entering the runway. Today, it is usually done at the terminal before taxiing to the runway.

The pilot performs several important checks during the run-up, and any out-of-spec response can necessitate a return to the ramp in search of a mechanic, or worse, outright cancellation of the flight. NOTE: On some FS panels the gauges may not read correctly during the run-up, and on others some may not respond at all.

Mag Check

The first check is of the magneto ignition system. An aircraft's ignition system differs from that of an automobile in that a magneto generates the high voltage for the spark plugs. Magnetos are notoriously unreliable and hence all piston-engine aircraft have a dual ignition system, with two completely separate systems for reliability.

Here is the procedure to check each magneto system. Note that the DC-3 Airways aircraft has only one Mag switch, located on the overhead panel. Of course, a DC-3 with two engines requires two Mag switches, one for the left engine and one for the right engine. So this Mag-testing routine is only for one engine. If your aircraft has two Mag switches, perform the run-up tests for each engine separately. The engine not being tested should be at 1000 RPM.

Propeller Check

If the Mags check OK, the prop check is next. Again, only a single check is performed since the DC-3 Airways aircraft has only a single MP gauge and a single tach. If your aircraft has dual tachs and dual manifold pressure gauges, then check both props.

Now we're ready!