Starting the Engine Starting the Engine

   The actual procedures for starting the engine will not be discussed here since there are as many different methods required as there are different engines, systems, starters, and propellers. The before starting and starting checklist provided for the particular airplane being used should always be followed. There are, however, certain precautions pointed out here that apply to all airplanes.

   Too many careless pilots start the engine with the tail of the airplane pointed toward an open hangar door, toward parked automobiles, or toward a group of bystanders. This is not only discourteous, thoughtless, and in violation of Federal Aviation Regulations, but often results in personal injury and serious damage to the property of others.

   When ready to start the engine, the pilot should look around in all directions to be sure that nothing is or will be in the vicinity of the propeller, and that nearby persons and aircraft will not be struck by the propeller blast or the debris it might pick up from the ground.

   If an electric starter is used, the pilot should always call "all clear," and wait for a response from persons who may be nearby before turning the ignition switch ON or activating the starter. While activating the starter, one hand should be kept on the throttle, to be ready to advance the throttle if the engine falters while starting or to prevent excessive RPM just after starting. A low power setting is recommended until the engine temperatures and oil pressure starts increasing.

   As soon as the engine is operating smoothly, the oil pressure should be checked. If it does not rise to the manufacturer's specified value in about 30 seconds in summer or 60 seconds in winter, the engine is not receiving proper lubrication and should be shut down immediately to prevent internal damage.

   Even though most airplanes are equipped with electric starters, every pilot should be familiar with the procedures and dangers involved in starting an engine by turning the propeller by hand (hand propping). Due to the associated hazards, this method of starting should be used only when absolutely necessary and when proper precautions have been taken. There have been many fatalities, serious injuries, and substantial property damage caused by the rotating propeller blades when the airplane suddenly moved forward, uncontrolled under its own power after hand starting.

   It is recommended that an engine never be "hand propped" unless a qualified person thoroughly familiar with the operation of all the controls is seated at the controls and the brakes set. As an additional precaution, chocks should be placed in front of the main wheels. If this is not feasible, the airplane's tail should be securely tied down.


   When hand propping is necessary, the ground surface near the propeller should be firm and free of debris. Loose gravel, slippery grass, mud, or grease might cause the person "propping" the airplane to slip or fall into the rotating propeller as the engine starts.

   First the ignition switch should be checked to be sure it is OFF. Then the blade to be swung should be rotated so that it is slightly above the horizontal position. The person doing the hand propping should face the blade squarely and stand close but not too close to the propeller blade. If standing too far away, it would be necessary to lean forward in an unbalanced position to reach the blade. This may cause the person to fall forward into the revolving blades when the engine starts.

   After the throttle is set to the start position and the ignition switch is turned ON, the propeller is swung by forcing the blade downward rapidly, pushing with the palms of both hands. If the blade is gripped tightly with the fingers, the person's body may be drawn into the propeller blades should the engine misfire and rotate in the opposite direction. As the blade is pushed down, the "hand propper" should step backward away from the propeller. If the engine does not start, the propeller should not be repositioned for another attempt until it is certain the ignition switch is turned OFF.

   When removing the wheel chocks after the engine starts remember that the propeller is almost invisible. There have been cases of serious injuries and fatalities because the person reached into the whirling propeller to remove the chocks. Before they are removed, the throttle should be set to idling and the chocks approached from the rear of the propeller - never from the front or the side.

   As stated previously, the procedure for starting should always be in accordance with the manufacturer's recommendations or checklist. Nonetheless, the following are some of the items that are essential in any starting procedures:

      1. Remove the control lock.
      2. Check flight controls for freedom of movement.
      3. Set wheel brakes.
      4. Set carburetor heat control to COLD position.
      5. Set mixture control to FULL RICH position.
      6. Set propeller control (if equipped) to full INCREASE position.
      7. Turn unnecessary electrical units OFF.
      8. Set fuel selector to ON for desired tank.
      9. Set throttle 1/4" to 1" open.
      10. Prime engine then lock the primer (if equipped).
      11. Turn ignition switch to BOTH ON.
      12. Turn master (battery) switch ON.
      13. Turn rotating beacon ON.
      14. Call out CLEAR.
      15. Activate starter switch.
      16. Adjust throttle for warmup (800 to 1000 RPM).
      17. Check oil pressure.