Pilot's tip of the week

Never Forget a Tow Bar


Subscriber question:

"I’ve heard horror stories about pilots starting the engine, or even departing, with the tow bar attached. How can I avoid being that guy?" — Danny Q.


“This is definitely something you want to avoid, so here’s a rule I practice and teach: Never let the towbar out of your hands until it’s hanging on the wall or stowed in the baggage compartment. Too many pilots have done their preflight in the hangar, pulled the aircraft outside, closed the hangar door without removing the towbar—and then climbed aboard to start up. Likewise, it’s all too easy to leave the towbar attached to answer the phone, load cabin items, make one last bathroom stop … you get the idea.

Also, towbars should be red, yellow, or orange so they’re easily spotted. I like hanging mine on the wall where it’s visible as I’m closing the door. I also have a final walkaround of the aircraft just before boarding along with a prestart checklist item to ensure I’ve looked around firewall-forward before getting in. This check has caught the occasional stray iPad or coffee cup.

Sometimes this procedure leaves me walking around holding a towbar for quite a while, but it’s better than the alternative. This also works great with pitot covers, cowl plugs, and chocks. Forgetting chocks isn’t that hazardous, but it’s still embarrassing.
So hang on to these things until properly stowed, and then enjoy the peace of mind when you’re about to turn the key.”

Have you ever started up the airplane only to realize you forgot an item (towbar, chocks, tie down, phone left on wing, etc.)?

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