The basic thing to remember in the cockpit is this: "THINK!" Being impulsive is only useful in a close-range dogfight, and since it is not 1916, being impulsive is useless. It can, in fact, get you killed mighty fast - know what and how to do what ever needs to be done. If you don't, ask someone. They will be certain to help.
Aviation is very procedural. Every action you will undertake in the aircraft will have a checklist tied to it somewhere. Many of the checklists are simple, and can be memorized, but this is not always a good practice. Memories can be faulty, and in aviation a faulty memory can be a death sentence. Use your checklists.
Here is an example of a checklist for a 1967 [[W:Cessna 150]Cessna 150] (which is the aircraft we will use as an example most often in this tutorial. This checklist should not be used as a replacement for your instructor's checklist. It should only be used as an example
(1)Remove Control Locks and Tiedown Ropes
This is the first portion. Here we approach the aircraft, and begin our systematic search for problems that will make the aircraft unsafe. We unrope the aircraft, and remove the control locks so that the aircraft is free and able to move.
(2)Master - - On
By turning on the master switch, we have given the aircraft instruments, gyroscopes, and other electrically driven systems life.
(3)Flaps - - Down
We lower the flaps so that we may later inspect their integrity.
(4)Fuel Gauge - - Check
The fuel gauges only work when the master is on
(5)Master - - Off
By turning the master off, we insure battery life. Without it, the engine will not be able to start.
(6)Ignition (MAGS) - - Off
This is to make sure that the magnetos, which control the engine sparkplugs are off. If the magnetos are on and the prop is turned by accident, the engine might start up and the propeller could injure, or kill you.
(7)Throttle - - Closed (Pulled Out)
This is to make sure that if even if the magnetos were not grounded, and the engine were to start, it will not be able to run because there would be little or no fuel running into the engine.
(8)Mixture - - Lean (Pulled Out)
Similar to above, this ensures that even if the throttle has some fuel running through it, the fuel-air mixture in the cylinders will be excessively lean, and the engine will be unable to continue running.
(9)Sample Fuel (Check for Water & Sediment) - - Left Wing
By draining fuel into a small clear container, we ensure that there is no water or debris in the fuel. Unclean fuel could lead to engine damage, or, in a bad case, to engine failure. Water in the engine would cause the engine to stop because water will not combust.
(10)Inspect Left Side of Fuselage for Damage
Here we are looking for wrinkles, or anything that might impede the integrity of the airflow. If the aircraft is not streamlined, it will not fly very well.
(11)Inspect Leading Edge of Horizontal & Vertical Stabilizer for Damage
Again, check for wrinkles, and any sort of damage. If our vertical stabilizer was broken, maintaining a level attitude would be hard.
(12)Inspect Skin on Tail Surfaces for Damage
Smooth airflow is the key. Rough airflow will get you killed.
(13)Check Stabilizers, Elevator, and Rudder for excessive travel
If they seem to go to far up or down, there is probably a problem. The push rods that control their movement may be damaged.
(14)Check that Hinge Bolts are fastened & Cotter Pins are in Place on Tail Surfaces
This is to make sure that the aircraft's tail is actually fastened in place, and not just hanging there.
(15)Inspect Right Side of Fuselage for Damage
Yet again we are looking for wrinkles, or anything that might impede the integrity of the airflow. Again, if the aircraft is not streamlined, it will not fly very well.
(16)Drain Fuel (Check for Water & Sediment) - - Right Wing
Same purpose as the above check.
(17)Check Flaps for excessive travel, bolts are fastened, and Control Rod is attached and is not bent
If the flaps are not properly attached, asymmetrical flap position, and or the flaps going up through the wing could result. Those are not too favorable outcomes.
(18)Check Ailerons for excessive travel, hinges are attached and not Cracked, Cotter Pins are attached to hinge ends
The ailerons control roll, if they are broken, it will be more difficult to control the aircraft. Make sure they will function.
(19)Remove all Ice Formation from Aileron
This is incredibly important. Ice changes the surface of the aileron, and may make it less effective. It may also limit the movement of the aileron.
(20)Check that Lead Weights are attached to Aileron
These weight the aileron in order to ensure a return to their original, "neutral" position.
(21)Shake Right Wing Up and Down - - Check for tightness and unusual Sounds
(22)Check Wing Struts - - Check for tightness and unusual sounds
(23)Inspect Right Wing for Damage - - Check for Wrinkles
(24)Inspect Main Landing Gear for Damage
(25)Inspect Main Landing Gear Tire for proper inflation, cuts, condition of tread, or foreign objects (screws or nails in tire)
(26)Inspect Brake Pads for wear
(27)Inspect Brake Line for leaks
(28)Check that Wheel is fastened to Landing Gear (Cotter Pin is in Place)
(29)Check Oil Level (4 ½ Quarts Minimum to 6 Quarts Maximum)
(30)Check Oil Breather for blockage
(31)Drain Fuel from Fuel Strainer
(32)Check Inside the Cowling (Nose of Aircraft) for loose Wiring, Oil Leaks, Fuel Leaks, All Engine Accessories are installed and installed correctly
(33)Check that Cowling is fastened correctly - - All Screws are attached
(34)Check Propeller & Spinner - - Check for Damage and Security
(35)Check Engine Baffle - - Check for Damage and Security
(36)Check Engine Baffle Seals - - Check for Damage and Security
(37)Check Engine Exhaust Pipes - - Check for Damage and Security
(38)Check Carburetor Air Filter - - Clean
(39)Inspect Nose Gear for Damage and Proper Inflation (2 inch spread on Nose Strut)
(40)Inspect Nose Gear Shimmy Dampener for Damage
(41)Check that all Bolts and Nuts are attached to nose fork assembly
(42)Inspect Nose Gear Tire for proper inflation, cuts, condition of Tread, or foreign objects (screws or nails in tire)
(43)Check that Wheel is fastened to Nose Gear - - Bolt and Nut Attached
(44)Check Condition of Steering Rod Boots
(45)Check Static Port for Damage and Obstructions
(46)Check Radio Cooling Vent for Damage and Obstructions
(47)Check Pitot Tube for Damage and Obstructions
(48)Check Fuel Overflow Tube for Damage and Obstructions
(49)Check Stall Warning Port for Damage and Obstructions
(50)Check Wing Struts - - Check for tightness and unusual sounds
(51)Inspect Left Wing for Damage – Check for Wrinkles
(52)Shake Left Wing Up and Down - - Check for tightness and unusual sounds
(53)Check Ailerons for excessive travel, hinges are attached and not cracked, Cotter Pins are attached to hinge ends, Control Rod attached
(54)Remove All Ice Formation from Aileron
(55)Check that Lead Weights are attached to Aileron
(56)Check Flaps for excessive travel, bolts are fastened, and Control Rod is attached and is not bent
(57)Inspect Main Landing Gear for Damage
(58)Inspect Main Landing Gear Tire for Proper inflation, cuts, condition of tread, or foreign objects (screws or nails in tire)
(59)Inspect Brake Pads for wear
(60)Inspect Brake Line for leaks
(61)Check that Wheel is fastened to Landing Gear (Cotter Pin is in place)
(62)Check Left Fuel Tank
(63)Check Right Fuel Tank
(64)Check Top of Wings for Damage
(65)Remove all Ice Formation From the Top and Bottom of All Surfaces
(66)Check Navigation Lights, Landing Lights, Strobe Lights, Pulse Light System, and the Beacon for Damage and Proper Illumination
(67)Check Antennas for Damage
(68)Remove all Debris under Propeller (rocks etc.)
(69)Fold up Step Ladder and put it in the bed of the truck
As complicated as this may seem, it is barely anything. The checklists that needed to be completed to launch the Apollo Spacecraft would take days to complete. This only takes 45 minutes or so.
Here is an example of a post-flight checklist for the same aircraft as above.
(1)Wing Flaps - - Up
(2)Carburetor Heat - - Cold
(3)Transponder - - Off
(1)Brake - - Set
(2)CLOSE FLIGHT PLAN
(3)Comm Radio - - Tune to 121.5 (Make sure ELT is not activated)
(4)Radios - - (COMM, VOR, ADF, GPS, DME & INTERCOM) - - Off
(5)Radio Master - - Off
(6)Strobe & Landing Lights - - Off
(7)Pulse Lights - - Off
(8)Mixture - - Idle Cut-Off (Pull Full Out)
(9)Ignition (Mags) - - Off
(10)Master Switch - - Off
(11)Nav. & Beacon Lights - - Off
(12)Control Lock - - Install
(13)Fuel Selector to Off or Left or Right, but not Both to prevent cross feed