Instrument Cockpit Check

You’ve received a weather briefing, completed your preflight checks and started your plane. Now its time to taxi out towards the runway. On the way out, it is good practice to make sure all your instruments are properly working.

We call this the “Instrument Cockpit Check.” (ICC)

When do complete an Instrument Cockpit Check

Generally, the Instrument Cockpit Check is completed during the taxi to the runway. Mainly because you need to be moving to check a few instruments, such as the Turn Coordinator, inclinometer, and heading indicator.

If you are taxiing at an unfamiliar airport or in low visibility, it would be wise to wait until you reach the runup area before you start your ICC.

How to complete an Instrument Cockpit Check

Think of an ICC as your pre-takeoff instrument flow pattern. You need to check each instrument in the flight deck for function and accuracy. Since each cockpit is slightly different, you’ll have to adjust the flow pattern to meet your needs but the example that I’ll provide below is a good start.

A quick note: the instrument cockpit check does not replace the need to do a runup. An ICC checks your flight instruments while the runup allows you to check the engine and its associated instruments.

Flow Pattern: Racetrack

Start in the upper left of the flight deck and work your way around clockwise while checking to make sure each instrument is working within its operating standards as follows:

  • Clock: The clock must be accurate with an operating second hand.
  • Airspeed: Should read “Zero” unless you’re taxiing into a strong headwind.
  • Attitude Indicator: Erect, Level, and within 5 degrees of bank within 5 minutes. Sometimes the attitude is slow to straighten out so make sure to give it a full 5 minutes before you start troubleshooting. Also, check that there is no red “inop” flag showing.
  • Altimeter: Within 75 feet of the field elevation once set to the current pressure setting received from the weather report.
  • Radios: Tuned to the proper Comm and Nav frequencies that you plan to use.
  • Navigation: Whether it be GPS or VOR, make sure you have the route loaded or the first radial you plan to join selected.
  • VSI: Should indicate “zero.” If it reads anything else, you will need to use that as your new zero.
  • Heading Indicator: This should match your magnetic compass

What to do when something is not working.

During your ICC, if you notice an instrument is not working, pull off to a safe area and troubleshoot the issue. If you can’t fix the problem from the cockpit, return to the ramp and give your mechanic a call.

Luckily, you were able to catch the problem on the ground before you took off. That is why it is important to complete the instrument cockpit check before each IFR flight!

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