Masking Your Preflight

Preflighting an airplane can often become a mundane activity. And students are especially susceptible to this when, after many successive preflights, they fail to find anything wrong with their airplanes. You can help them maintain their preflight vigilance by using the following technique.

Before your student shows up for a lesson, place small pieces of masking tape (approximately 2"x1") at strategic locations on the airplane. On each piece of tape write statements like, "Rivet missing," or "metal cracked" or "wire frayed."

Let your student complete his normal preflight, then ask if he found anything wrong with the airplane. Sometimes he'll say, "Wrong? There's seldom anything wrong with the airplane." Amazed that I'd ask such a question, I've had students stare at me, as if I just walked up to them in Beijing and asked for directions to Chinatown.

Now the fun begins.

Take him on another walkaround and point out the pieces of tape. A crafty student might try to wheedle and two-step his way out of embarrassment with humor. Be prepared for this. I had one student say, "Oh, I thought that tape was holding the airplane together." At which point I replied, "Don't be silly, this is masking tape, not duct tape." Touché!

You can even write the words "Bald spot" on tape and place it on one or more of the tires. Your student won't notice this unless the airplane is physically moved and each tire observed. Of course, you want to retrieve all pieces of tape after the lesson is completed.

UNIQUE PRIVATE PILOT GROUND SCHOOL IMAGES FOR FLIGHT INSTRUCTORSThis technique is also useful during flight. On several occasions I wrote the words "Ammeter shows discharge" on tape and placed it directly on the ammeter. You'll be amazed at how infrequently pilots check their ammeter. Additionally, this is an excellent way to tell how often they scan important instruments like, oil pressure and oil temperature gauges.

The value in this technique is that it keeps students from becoming complacent about preflight. But don't be surprised if sharp students gain the upper hand in this lesson. Several years ago I wrote, "Suction gauge shows inadequate suction" on tape and placed it over the gauge. I looked away to take care of cockpit business. When I looked up, on the same piece of tape, the student had written, "No it doesn't!" I love sharp students.

By Rod Machado | | CFI Resource Center | 0 comments
next post → ← previous post


Leave a comment

Stay in Touch

Physical Product Ordering Only (800) 437-7080

If you'd like to order a PHYSICAL product by phone, please call the number above. Digital (downloadable) products can't be ordered by phone.

Latest Posts

  • The Games Young People Play

    By Rod Machado Lucky me. Lucky, because at a recent aviation event, I met and chatted with Sally Melvill, wife of Mike Melvill (SpaceShipOne). She’s a delightful and insightful lady who earned her chops teaching kindergarten. She knows how the... read more

  • Private Pilot Checkrides: The Good Old Days

    My friend, DPE and highly experienced pilot, Mr. Frank Phillips was kind enough to provide me with much of the following documentation in this blog piece. I am grateful that he loves flight training--including its history and development--as much as... read more

  • Reduce Stalls and Spins with Right-Hand Traffic Patterns

    By Rod Machado NOTE: I post these articles, in particular this one, in hopes of receiving some well reasoned input. This article presents an hypothesis that needs testing. Nearly every response so far suggests that pilots should be taught to fly coordinated... read more

  • The Limited Flight Instructor Certificate

    A recent Polish immigrant visited his local flight surgeon to take a third-class medical exam. The doctor had him stand in a specific spot, then pulled down a chart showing the letters: CVOKPTNXZYKV. The doc said to the Polish immigrant,... read more

  • The FAA's New "Not-So-Slow" Slow Flight Procedure

    As most flight instructors know the FAA recently changed the requirements for slow flight in the private pilot ACS. Slow flight must now be accomplished at a speed higher than MCA or Minimum Controllable Airspeed (a speed at which the stall... read more

  • Your Airline Career

    By Rod Machado  Now that you've acquired all the necessary flight instructor ratings, you're ready to think about becoming qualified for that airline job. Normally, you should think about getting hired with a regional airline first. This allows you to... read more

  • Obtaining Your Advanced Pilot Ratings

     By Rod Machado     Once you've acquired the private pilot certificate, you're ready to fly, have fun and, perhaps, pursue that airline career. If so, here's what you should think about doing.   First, you'll need to obtain the following certificates... read more

  • How to Become a Private Pilot

    By Rod Machado What Does it Take? What does it take for you to become a private pilot? If you’re like most people, once you get the thought of flying airplanes in your noggin, it continues to play like a musical... read more


    By Rod Machado    Here is the sequence of steps you should consider in pursuing your private pilot license (it's technically called a "certificate" but we'll call it a license). As you'll see, the most important steps listed below deal... read more

  • Young People and Career Choices

    By Rod Machado I remember a time when an airplane would fly over our house during dinner and I’d run outside shirtless—in my tiny pants and bare feet—and then point skyward and yell, “Airpwane! Airpwane! Airpwane!” I remember that because... read more

  • The FORBIDDEN Question

    By Rod Machado During my high school years, it was known as the forbidden dance—the Lambada. Do it on the dance floor in front of the principal and you’d be “dancing with the scars” resulting from that encounter. Some things... read more

  • Rod's Letter to the FAA and ACS Committee Members

    Yes, really! The Private Pilot ACS adds 363 Risk Management items to the PPL practical exam testing requirements. Students are responsible for knowing the answers to each and every one of these items, all of which require highly subjective answers (according... read more