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Pre-Flight Checks

Before every flight the pilot must run through a sequence of pre-flight checks. One of the first things to learn as a new student pilot is this sequence of checks, and understand why you are doing them.

The mnemonics to remember are:

  1. ABCDE

The first ABCDE checks are made before getting into the glider. The second set, CB SIFT BEC, is considered after you have strapped yourself into the glider and are prepared to fly.


Before getting into the glider, run through the ABCDE checklist.

  • Airframe - Check for external damage/defects. Check the DI book. Confirm positive control checks have been made and the aircraft is signed off as airworthy. Does the DI mention anything to be aware of (e.g., radio not working, batteries in poor condition, tyre has slow leak)?
  • Ballast - Are any ballast weights loaded? (Sometimes these cannot be seen when when sitting in the glider). How many? Are they fastened securely and safely? Confirm minimum and maximum cockpit weights (often the placard cannot be easily read when sitting in the glider). If flying a 2-seater solo, be sure you understand the solo limits, and ensure you are at least 10 kg over the minimum. If in any doubt check with an instructor.
  • Controls - Do they move in the correct sense and with full deflection?
  • Dolly - Are the tail dolly, rudder lock, and any other ground-handling paraphernalia removed?
  • Eventualities - Make the unexpected expected! Assess the wind and the weather. A good question to ask is, “what has changed since I last flew?”. Consider your landing options, within and outwith the airfield. Prepare yourself mentally for landing ahead in the event of a launch failure. What will your landing speed be? Crosswind correction? Where is the wheel brake? In the initial part of the launch you must keep the wings level; if a wing drops and you are unable to pick it up with the aileron, you must release before the wing tip touches the ground. At what point will you abort the launch if the glider is slow to get off the ground? How will you get out of the glider in an emergency? What are the minimum and maximum speeds you will accept on tow? If you don't land straight ahead, which way might you turn, left or right?

It's useful to consider Eventualities while standing outside the glider because you have a better view and more time. When the tug is running and someone is standing in front of you waiting to hook on the cable it is difficult to give yourself the time you need to consider all eventualities properly.


  • Controls - Controls are full and free:
    • Move the stick fully forward, fully aft, full right, full left. Moving the controls individually allows you to get used to the feel and displacement for that glider on the ground.
    • With full left rudder move the stick around the extremities of the controls
    • With full Right rudder move the stick around the extremities of the controls
  • Ballast - Confirm you (and, if present, your passenger) are within the allowed weight limits, including any fitted ballast weights.
  • Straps - Straps are tight and secure, and no loose objects in the cockpit.
    • Lap straps are tightened first, then shoulder straps
  • Instruments - Instruments are zeroed, with no broken glass or condensation, turned on and set correctly.
    • Pressure instruments will not work if the glass is cracked
    • Altimeters are set to either zero (height above airfield) or height above sea level
    • ASI (Air Speed Indicator)
      • The Yellow triangle is the minimum approach speed in no wind
      • The Green line is normal range in which full control deflections may be used
      • The Yellow line is Va - maximum speed in severe turbulence
      • The Red line is VNE (Velocity Never Exceeded) - the maximum speed before the wings fall off
    • Radio is turned on, tuned to the correct frequency (118.665), and the volume is turned up
  • Flaps - If flaps are fitted, check full and free movement, and configure for launch
  • Trim - Check for full and free movement fore and aft, and set for approach speed
  • Brakes - Fully open the airbrakes, check they are open the same amount on each side, half close the brakes, check again they are open the same amount, close and (most importantly) confirm that they are locked.
  • Eventualities1) - Reconsider the eventualities you covered as part of the ABCDE checks. Confirm that conditions have not deteriorated or canopy is misting to the extent that launching is unwise.
  • Canopy - Canopy is closed and locked, with lever(s) fully in place, and resists upward pressure

Accept the cable:

  • ‘Brakes Closed and Locked (are they?!), cable on please’
  • Left hand on the yellow release knob
  • Prepare for a launch failure

Pre-Circuit Checks


This is the pre-circuit checklist, to be run through before joining the circuit to land. Sometimes WULF is used.


  • Wind - Be sure of the direction, especially if landing in a field. Has the direction, strength, or gustiness changed since taking off? What is an appropriate approach speed?
  • Water - Water ballast dumped
  • Undercarriage - Down and locked. Confirm handle is in the correct position (it happens occasionally that people fly with the undercarriage down, then raise it before landing!)
  • Loose Articles - This includes the pilot. Ensure straps are tight and any loose articles are securely stowed.
  • Landing Area - Where will you land? Is the landing area clear? What's Plan B should the chosen area become blocked? Always have a Plan B.
  • Flaps - If fitted, set appropriately. They may need adjusting later in the circuit.

Further Reading

Being prepared for flight involves more than carrying out the pre-flight checklists. See the BGA safety page on Preparation for Flight.

Student Pilot Manual, Section 4.3

Why We Have Checklists

Checklists are an essential safety measure. They help ensure that your glider is configured appropriately for each stage of flight. Checklists are a way of remembering to verify that things are working properly and that you haven’t forgotten anything. It is best to go through them calling each item and response aloud, even when flying alone. Checking thoroughly and confirming key points out loud helps ensure that you will not doubt yourself later.

Beware, however, of reciting the list without thinking about it. “Undercarriage down and locked” (part of the pre-landing checklist) rolls off the tongue when flying a training glider with a fixed wheel, but you don't want to say this when flying a single-seater with retractable wheel without first confirming that the appropriate lever is in fact in the correct position and securely locked there.

Additional eventualities must be considered when winch launching
ltf/pre-flight-checks.txt · Last modified: 2024/03/10 13:41 by tim