Getting Ready for the GA Season

John FRANKLIN • 22 March 2022
in community Rotorcraft

As we look to the summer with the hope of some fun and exciting flying it's important to "Be Ready" and then "Fly Safely". This is especially true if you are flying as a GA helicopter pilot who might not have flown so much during the winter.

We teamed up with pilot and instructor Mona Seeberger to make a video and article to provide you with information on some important things you can think about at the start of the summer. (Thanks to Mona and GASCO for their support)

Mona Seeberger shares her thoughts with us on getting back into the cockpit


Take the EASA return to flying training developed by GASCo

As more small operators and GA helicopter pilots return to flying, it may have been quite some time since your last flight and we encourage a little extra preparation so that things start safely.

We encourage you take the time to take a look at the tutorial that has been created with the fantastic people at GASCO so you can feel as confident as possible when you lift your wheels from the ground for the first time.

It covers some useful revision topics and some things that you might want to think about before setting of on your first flight following the long layoff after COVID-19 and the winter. It also has information on other useful links.

The most important thing to remember is that things don't look or feel right - cancel and reschedule the flight.

Helicopter COVID

The main points on returning to flight

  • Work with any customers/ passengers or clients to make them aware of any new risks or requirements you have identified in the post COVID-19 world.
  • Allow a little more time to help manage things that might now be less familiar. 
  • Take the necessary health precautions in the Rotorcraft Operational Guidelines. 

Checklists can help you to prepare

After a period of inactivity, systematically going through the steps of the PAVE (and IMSAFE) checklist will help you identify and quantify potential risk factors associated to your flight and will support your decision making process.

The PAVE checklist

PAVE stands for:

  • Pilot (/Personal)
  • Aircraft
  • EnVironment
  • External Pressures

Pilot (-in-Command)/Personal 

We are humans before we are pilots, and some days are better than others.

You as the Pilot-in-Command are the most important element of your own personal risk assessment. Therefore it is only fair to start the checklist with you. If you don’t feel fit to fly, or have some doubts on your own ability to take command of the entire process, this will be the most important reason to re-consider and decide on whether to continue or not.

To help you assess your overall readiness to commence the flight a further detailed checklist is used to focus on the pilot: IMSAFE

IM SAFE is a proactive way to self-evaluate your health before flying

 "I" stands for illness, How’s your general health and wellbeing? Have you been ill lately? A small cold, could even turn out to be uncomfortable when up at altitude.

"M" stands for masks and medication; when wearing a mask, use one that you are comfortable with and which doesn’t impede breathing. Make sure it doesn’t interfere with oxygen systems or other safety systems on board and is compatible with your microphone system. Consider the impact of any medication you might be taking? Is it still legal for you to be flying?

"S" stands for sleep; did you get enough sleep to function optimally?  

"A" stands for alcohol, ensure you are following all the regulations that apply to consumption.

"F" stands for fatigue; do you feel rested? Maybe you have you flown already? For how long? Are you still alert enough to continue? "/to start a new flight?

E" stands for eating. Food is your fuel, without it you will probably not function properly. Staying hydrated, especially in the summer is crucial to remain alert and be on top of your game.


As Pilot-in-Command you have the final responsibility to determine and ensure that your aircraft or helicopter is airworthy and ready to take you and your passengers safely on your flight.

Before your “walk around” or pre-flight inspection of your aircraft, it might be good to focus on the documentation that is required by the regulations. Part NCO covers Non-Commercial flight in Non-Complex Aircraft and requires the following documents to be carried (and therefore be checked by the Pilot-in-Command), refer to Part NCO.GEN.135:




the AFM (Aircraft Flight Manual / Pilot Operating Manual), Rotorcraft Flight Manual (RFM) or equivalent document(s);



the original certificate of airworthiness (CofA), ARC (validity of                                                                    Airworthiness Review Certificate)



the original certificate of registration;



the aircraft radio license, if applicable;



Third Party Liability Insurance certificates



Noise certificate, if applicable



List of specific approvals, if applicable


These documents, manuals and information need to be carried on each flight you will undertake as originals or copies unless otherwise specified (for instance when only doing circuit training or local A to A flights)

With regards to the operation of the flight, also be aware of the following documentation that is needed for each flight you intend to undertake (even on local A-A flights):



Flight Plan

ATS Flight Plan if applicable



Journey Log, or equivalent



Procedures and visual signals information for use by intercepting and intercepted aircraft;



Minimum Equipment List (MEL) or CDL (Configuration Deviation List), if applicable



Current and suitable aeronautical charts for the route, area of the proposed flight and all routes along which it is reasonable to expect that the flight may be diverted. Did you update your navigational tools?



Any other documentation that may be pertinent to your flight or is required by the States concerned with the flight (think maybe about Mass and Balance calculations, performance calculations, NOTAMS, Weather briefing, your license, your medical, an ID with photo etc.)


On your pre-flight inspection or walk around, follow the checklist specified in the AFM tailored to your aircraft.

Especially after a long period of inactivity, consider giving special/extra attention to

  • Fuel: drain enough fuel to check for water and for other contaminations. Basically always suspect that there will be water in the aircraft fuel tank, particularly after re-fuelling and if the aircraft has been standing in rain or from condensation of atmospheric moisture inside the tank long-term or just overnight.
  • good closure of fuel drainage (ballonet types)
  • Condition of the Fuel caps and the rubber sealings
  • Tire pressure
  • Fluid leaks and levels (Oil, hydraulics)
  • Corrosion
  • Insects/nests, especially in pitot/static ports and/or in engine compartments and air vents
  • Loose screws and bolts
  • Damage to wiring
  • Clean cockpit windows


These questions include: Are you aware of the latest conditions, limitations and/or procedures of your home airfield/aerodrome? Have you checked the conditions, limitations and/or procedures of your destination and if applicable also your alternates? Also, have you reviewed applicable NOTAMs?

What’s the weather forecast for your path and are you comfortable flying in those weather conditions? What will be the effect of outside temperature on your personal and aircraft performance?  Are they within your own personal minimums (limits)? Have you familiarized yourself with the airspace and possible changes to these? Have you explored alternative flight path options, if needed? Are you aware of the departure procedures and approaches available and are you ready for each alternative?

Do you expect a busy airspace and prepared to continuously scan for traffic? Or on edge about the air traffic control situation? Does the aircraft have heat or air conditioning? Are you familiar with the terrain? What is the area MSA?

External pressures

Are you feeling stressed or anxious? Will this flight make you feel that way? Are you being pressured to get to your destination quickly? Will you take along passengers? Do you know them? Are they excited? Have high expectations? Are your passengers exhibiting unsafe or distracting behavior? Are you being honest with yourself and others about your pilot abilities and limitations?

Of course this checklist is not all inclusive and other issues and considerations could be mentioned that are applicable to you, for that particular flight on that particular day under those unique circumstances.

But with this PAVE checklist in your mind, you have a general but easy way to systematically assess your own personal minimums and preparedness for the flight you are about to undertake. It will help you to identify some potential risks before your departure and can assist you in your decision-making process.

Fly your best and always strive to become a better aviator with every flight you make. And to keep enjoying our gift of flight.


With thanks to Mona Seeburger, Global Helicopter Service, Helitrade and Geal&Mann for the video.

Credits to FAA and Flight Safety Australia and CAA UK - further thanks to DGAC France.



Comments (2)

Peter Moeller

John, very well done, the movie as well as the checklists, but do we get it out to the community, specifically to the GA community. If you are not a member of this group, you will not see it. Or do I miss something? How can I share it?


Thanks for the positive feedback Peter. The Community site is visible to everyone, there is no need to logon or register to see the articles themselves, just to comment.
The best way to share is using the web page address through social media. The main way is on LinkedIn but I also post in various Facebook groups as well, including our group on General Aviation. Already through LinkedIn we have almost 4,000 views.

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