As a college student born into a family with no aviation background, my flying has been restricted primarily to rental planes. Over the past six years, I’ve rented six different 172s, a 150, a few Piper Warrior IIs, and an Archer II from three different FBOs. Overall, I’ve had no problems with renting, and only had to reject an airplane once (with a bad mag). But recently, I’ve run into some of the pains of renting.
One spring day after a long semester of school, I eagerly drove to the airport to log a few landings in my most faithful steed from my hometown FBO: Skyhawk Niner-One-Golf. She’s not the prettiest bird, but her engine is fresh, and with the full 40 degrees of flaps (a sign of a true 172), she can outperform any of the other 172s I’ve flown. I walked out to find the cockpit vents open, the control locks not installed properly, the flaps fully deployed and less than an hour’s worth of gas left in the tanks.
I can hear the hate mail now. Yes, I know I’m being nitpicky, but my complaints are not my point. Many of us who fly don’t have our own planes. We fly planes that belong to FBOs, flying clubs, or maybe you’re a partial owner. When you’re paying by the hour, it’s easy to cut corners, be a little careless, or belittle something that we would never forget on our own airplane. However, if we treat a rental plane as our own, every renter or club member benefits. Here are a few things I try to do when I rent:
- FUEL. A passenger who’s flown with me a few times asked me once, “Why do you fuel the airplane before AND after we fly?” It’s annoying to walk out to the airplane to find only five or six gallons left in the tanks. Some of the planes we rent don’t have a large useful load, so perhaps filling the tanks isn’t a great idea as it would take away some loading options, but parking the plane with about 2 hours of fuel leaves plenty for a lesson, a local flight, or even a short cross country. If you know who has the plane next, ask them how much fuel they’ll need. It goes back to the old rule of returning anything you barrow with a full tank of gas. It just makes it easier on the next pilot.
- BE GENTLE. One day, before I was set to fly, I watched as a ham-fisted pilot gunned the throttle and swung the Skyhawk out of her parking spot, carrying much more throttle than what was needed. Mind you, this was a cold day without allowing much time for the engine to warm up, but that’s another issue. Be gentle! For many of us, these planes are older than we are! Take your time and play nice. It keeps things from breaking, and thus keeps the plane out of the shop.
- THE SCHEDULE. Make sure you have the plane signed out properly before you fly. I am guilty of taking the airplane for a cross country while someone else had a lesson scheduled. Always check the schedule.
- THE “DE-FLIGHT.” After you fly, be sure to leave the plane in good shape. Close the vents to keep bees out of the cockpit, make sure the master switch is off, lock the controls, put the appropriate covers on, make sure you don’t leave any trash in the cockpit, and tie it down. Little things make a big difference for the next person. We all want the airplane to be in good shape when we walk out to it. Leave it the way you would want to find it.
In short, if all of us renters treat the rental plane and our fellow pilots with a certain level of respect, we’ll all be flying in a better place. None of the items I mentioned take that much time, and people do notice.
What do you guys think? Is there anything that you when you rent to keep the peace at your FBO or club?
Be a good renter, and happy flying.