Preflight Checklist for RC Airplanes (Free File)

by FliteTest | December 18, 2018 | (6) Posted in Tips

Here are a couple of lists for you to follow before your R/C airplane flights.

If I were to identify one item in my flight bag that has made the biggest difference to my flying over the years, it would be the preflight checklist. Although guilty of not using it on every flight, it has saved my bacon on many separate occasions. 

This list is all about reducing the chances of something failing and increasing the chances of a successful and enjoyable flight experience - it’s really that simple. All you have to do before a flight is take two minutes to run through it. A good checklist is a valuable tool and well worth your time, so we’ve made one for you.

If you don’t want to carry a physical list to the field, you can always use a simpler (yet less thorough) mental list. For maiden flights, however, we do recommend that you use the full checklist. 

Check Your C.R.A.P (Mental Checklist)

You should always (always!) check your C.R.A.P. This is a consolidated, mental list of four things to check before a flight. It only takes a few seconds, so make sure you do it.

C: Control surfaces - Test your controls and make sure everything is secure. Ensure linkages are connected and won’t fall off.

R: Rips and Tairs - Examine the body of your plane closely looking for rips, tears or crinkles.   

A: Angles - Look for structural weaknesses. Eg. check the angle of your tail and make sure it’s not crooked.

P: Power - Check all electronic connections and make sure everything works correctly.

Here’s one of our FLITE TIP videos from a few years back which covers the ‘high five’ technique for checking your control surfaces. It’s an easy way to remember which way your controls should go, so it might be worth a re-watch.  

Full Preflight Checklist

Here’s the full checklist that you should use before a maiden flight (and probably before all of your flights). Make sure to download the included checklist file so that you can print and keep it to hand. A helpful tip is to get it laminated so that they last a couple of decades rather than a couple of months. 

Download the file: Preflight Checklist.pdf

- Before Powering up -

  • Check Battery Voltage - Is your battery fully charged?
  • Check Transmitter Power - Is your battery low?

- After Power Up -

  • Check Surfaces - Are they loose? Check pushrods, linkages, clevises and hinges.
  • Check Control Direction - check direction with ‘high five’ technique.
  • Check Airframe - are there any noticeable issues with loose wings/tail/motor mounts etc?
  • Check Propeller - Is it tightly attached?
  • Check Landing gear - (if applicable) check wheels are free to move and gear doesn’t wobble.
  • Check Motor - does it spin freely?
  • Check Servos - do they move freely?
  • Check Center of Gravity - check balance of the aircraft with the battery installed.

- Environment Check - 

  • Check for people - Make sure there will be no people under your flight.
  • Check wind direction - Also check for areas where wind may be turbulent or unpredictable.
  • Plan climb out and pattern - Think about direction of takeoff and your general flight pattern (if applicable).
  • Plan landing - Think about which direction you will approach from and where you will land.

The Pocket Checklist

If you don’t have a dedicated flight bag, field box or you would simply prefer a more conveniently sized checklist, take a look at this tiny pocket log book I made many years back. It contains a checklist.

I filled this thing with notes after each flight to record and remember my experiences. It was extremely helpful! Let us know if you want us to show you how to make one of these!

Have you anything to add to the preflight checklist? 

Write a comment below. 

Article by James Whomsley

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PixelDani on December 19, 2018
Great article, i want a Pocket Checklist for christmas as a download :)
Log In to reply on December 19, 2018
I agree, would be handy to have in the field box for quick notes.
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ncsky on December 19, 2018
Great article. I have been using the High Five method from the video. Great way to avoid problems.

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bozobernie on December 21, 2018
So far my flights have been successful but having one of these check lists would be great and relieve some of the concerns before flight. Having had taken a few full scale flight lessons, following the required check list before flight as per the manufacturers hand book is always a safe pilot action.
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USAlimey on January 3, 2020
It is a great article - suggestions:

Add RANGE Check
Under batter voltage, state the 80-20 and 12 volt rule (nice to have on a single sheet of paper)
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Preflight Checklist for RC Airplanes (Free File)