First, I told my student I was glad I would never have to worry about her pulling a gun on me or trying to steal our Cessna 172 trainer. Then, we turned to tiedowns and preflight inspections. Early in our training, I would walk around the airplane with my student during the preflight to mention any missed items and the importance of checking them; however, I wouldn’t point out if she forgot to untie the tail or wings or remove the chocks. I recommended a big-picture walkaround after the preflight to catch any obvious oversights, such as tiedowns or chocks, so she would always pick up on it then.
To help stress the importance of untying the aircraft, I also shared an embarrassing story of my own. During my initial flight training, I had untied my wing and my instructor untied his side, but neither of us got the tail and I didn’t do a big-picture walkaround. When I tried to taxi out of the tiedown spot, we didn’t budge. We added more power–nothing. I have never seen anyone shut down an aircraft as fast as my instructor did when he realized what had happened. We had pulled the rope so tight that he actually had to cut it. Making the matter even more embarrassing was the fact that we were tied down in front of a flight school with floor-to-ceiling windows so that everyone had a clear view of the ramp. That story has stuck with my student, and she’s never forgotten to untie the aircraft.
Unfortunately, now she has another reminder of the importance of a thorough preflight, but this one with illegal intentions. In the case of this California man, the tiedowns turned out to be the last line of defense preventing him from stealing the aircraft. For the rest of us trying to get in the air legally and safely, they can be an unforgiving (and embarrassing) reminder of the importance of a proper preflight.