Checklists, Briefing and Aviation Professionalism

There is a saying in aviation that the rules are “written in blood”, i.e., they come from lessons learned the hard way. One of the key lessons is to use checklists and conduct thorough briefs. Plan the flight, fly the plan, and use the checklist(s).

You should have checklists for air vehicle maintenance, air vehicle-specific launch and recovery procedures, and mission-specific procedures. In addition to those, below is a minimal briefing guide that should be used by all PSU fliers at all times. Following this checklist/briefing guide ensures that all of the basic considerations for safe flying are touched on prior to launch. It can serve as the starting point for a checklist tailored to your specific needs. Here is a PDF file of the checklist, replicated below: Flight Brief-v5cm8c


Penn State University UAV Operations Pre-Flight Planning & Brief

  1.  The following topics will be covered in a pre-flight brief. Where the conditions warrant (e.g., change in mission, crew, weather, site) the brief will be repeated. All participants must brief, at a minimum via voice, ideally in person.
  2.  General

    1.  Type of flight: e.g., training, maintenance, normal. Note appropriate restrictions
    2. AV status

      1. Power
      2.  CG
      3. Recent maintenance
    3. Aircrew

      1. Ratings (license on hand)
      2. Currency
      3. Training/currency requirements
    4. Site

      1. Permissions
      2. Boundaries
      3. Permanent and temporary obstacles
      4. Special restrictions
      5.  Nonparticipating personnel
      6.  Nearby airports or areas of air traffic
    5. Part 101, COA or Part 107 waivers operating under, and restrictions.
    6.  Launch and recovery information.
    7. Active NOTAMs
  3. Mission

    1. Primary mission
    2.  Secondary mission
    3. Times on and off mission
    4. Crew coordination (who does what during the mission)
  4. Weather

    1.  Current observation
    2.  Weather forecast covering the event
    3.  Verify VFR weather minimums are in place
    4. Impact of weather on operations
  5.  Communications

    1. Participants
    2. Frequencies if radio required
    3. Other communications means between participants
  6. Navigation and Flight Planning

    1. Departure
    2. Mission route
    3. Recovery
  7.  Crew Coordination (who does what and when)

    1.  Taxi/Takeoff/Launch
    2. Enroute/climbout
    3. Recovery/landing
  8.  Emergencies

    1. Mission abort criteria
    2. Aborted launch
    3. Loss of power on takeoff
    4. Loss of power at altitude
    5. Lost comms- autopilot
    6. Lost comms – manual
    7. Landing emergencies
    8.  Contaminated site (personnel, vehicles)
    9. Abort for manned aircraft or other AVs in operating area