Preparing for First Flight

First Flights!

First flights are a time of excitement, and can be a nervous time too.  It pays to accept help.

Have at least one other pilot look over your plane.  They always seem to spot something you missed!

Consider having a more experienced pilot do the first flight, and assist them with the trimming so they can keep their eyes on the plane.  Flying an unfamiliar airplane that is out of trim is a uniquely stressful and difficult thing to do, especially if you really love your new plane.

Consider using a checklist to make sure you haven’t forgotten something.  Here is the checklist that we have used in our Tuesday evening summer training program:


Before First Flight Inspection Checklist 

(EXAMPLE -- for a simple trainer airplane)

  1. Aircraft power is OFF 

  2. Check radio battery (if applicable): 4c/5volts, 5c/6volts. 


  1. Engine / Motor are secure in mount. 

  2. Muffler, accessories, prop are secure and installed correctly. 
  3. Check prop for damage. 

  4. Was prop balanced prior to installing? 

  5. Check nose wheel installation for security. (if installed) 

  6. For nitro power check firewall and nose area for fuel proofing. 

  7. For nitro power check fuel tank installation, tank security, secure fill and feed line’s: 

  8. If cowl is used check for secure installation. 


  1. Are servos mounted correctly, rubber mount, grommet flange against mounting surface. 

  2. Check that wires are routed to preclude hang up on servo arm motion. 

  3. Are all mounting screws tight? Is control arm screw tight? 

  4. Check that control rods are secure with supports to prevent flexing. 

  5. Attachment of control rods to servo is secure and non binding. 

  6. Receiver is secured and isolated from vibration. 

  7. Check that receiver antennas are installed correctly.

  8. Check that battery is secured and is isolated from vibration. 

  9. For electric need to verify that battery is not damaged/puffed, that hold down is adequate 
to prevent movement in flight, and correct connection to motor/ESC. 

  10. Check that all clevises have “safety” tubing to prevent opening in flight. 


  1. Check fin and stabilizer for solid mounting. 

  2. Pull test fin to rudder hinges and stabilizer to elevator hinges. 

  3. Check rudder and elevator control horn and clevises for secure mounting. 

  4. If required check tail wheel for secure mounting and non-binding steering. 


  1. Check for damage, warps, center section reinforcement and/or wing joiner for two piece wing.
  2. Pull test aileron hinges, check control linkage , control horn security and clevises. 

  3. Check wing mounting for secure attachment hold down; dowels or bolt hold down. 

  4. Before installing WING, insure required AMA identification data is applied. (Gen rule 6) 

  5. Install Wing: prefer nylon bolts or minimum of 10 new rubber bands. 

  6. Visually check overall alignment of wing, fin, and stabilizer. 


  1. Check CG; fuel tank empty, use main SPAR if location is unknown. Correct as required.
  2. Insure battery is installed when checking CG for electrics.

  3. Note: For low wing aircraft , turn model over to check CG.

  4. If possible check lateral balance. 


  1. If the aircraft is electric powered , tie down and insure that throttle stick is in idle position. 

  2. Turn on transmitter: check battery is 10 volts min. (Maybe lower voltage on some 2.4) 

  3. Check that control surfaces move in correct direction and throttle idle to full is correct. 

  4. Check that control throw is sufficient for flight. 

  5. Check that the control surface is trimmed to the primary flight surface. 

  6. Perform a range check according to the instructions for the receiver and transmitter used (they are all different), AND perform the check with the airplane in several orientations.
  7. Test the Fail Safe function of the radio by restraining the airplane, setting the throttle above idle so that the prop is spinning, then shutting off power to the transmitter.  The motor should go to zero power after several seconds.
  8. Range check for Spektrum: enter range mode (press and hold bind button) @ 90 ft. 


  10. Start engine, perform power test/idle test, LOW trim shut off. 

  11. For electrics check whether ESC is set to “hard brake” or “free- wheeling”. 
  12. If required, set up “buddy box” to insure compatibility with primary transmitter. 

  13. If required and if available perform 90db test.