‘Remove before flight’ is a well-known phrase to anyone working in or around aircraft. It’s familiar to not just pilots but all manner of aircrew, flight attendants, aircraft mechanics, flight operations staff, and aviation enthusiasts. Passengers crossing the apron to the awaiting aircraft may have noticed a remove before flight tag flapping in the wind while attached to another aircraft nearby.
What does ‘remove before flight’ mean?
The meaning may at first seem clear enough: remove this item before you depart and take-off. The item might be a protective cover for a sensitive opening on the aircraft, protecting it from the weather, dust, insects, or anything else that might blow in there and prevent the component from working correctly. On military aircraft such red tags may be seen on weapon systems.
For example, one of the most common uses for a remove before flight tag in General Aviation is for a cover for an aircraft’s pitot tube. A pitot tube is an air intake tube that links to the cockpit instruments to display the airspeed of the aircraft through the air. It’s a small L-shaped tube that can be seen under one wing of a light aircraft. The remove before flight tag is usually attached to a cover for this small tube, in order to protect it from dust, insects, ice, and anything else that might impair its function.
The phrase may also be used when attached to covers for larger holes or gaps. You might see a remove before flight cover on propellers or some of the linkage mechanisms on the undercarriage of larger aircraft. It’s also used to label items within the aircraft such as the control lock within the cockpit.
Another use for the remove before flight tag is when it’s attached to a pin or block that prevents movement in a mechanical part on the aircraft. For example, attached to a block in the gap between the elevators or the rudder in the tail, or the ailerons and the wing.
It’s essential that these covers are removed before the aircraft becomes airborne. This is why the tags are almost always in red (although some may be in a flurorescent colour).
As part of the ground handling processes, when commercial aircraft arrive and park at the gate, ground crews may add the protective covers to openings and mechanical parts. Before departure the reverse procedures apply before departure when all red tags are removed.
The phrase is always in English too, wherever you are in the world. They need to stand out and be seen with no risk of ambiguity so the tags have been created in a way that is unmistakable at all airports and airfields around the globe.
Remove Before Flight Tag Gifts
The fact that this phrase has a unique association with aviation is what makes it the ideal phrase to add to a variety of products that can become gifts for pilots, aviation enthusiasts, and anyone else interested in aviation.
One of the most popular uses for ‘remove before flight’ on products is on keychains. These flight key chains are often in red with ‘remove before flight’ on one side and an aviation company’s name on the reverse.
Here’s a link to the entire ‘remove before flight’ collection on Airportag.
Flight keychains are probably the biggest seller since nearly everyone carries at least one key and big red tag attached to it makes it unmissable.
T shirts are another. The gag that an item of clothing should be removed before flight never seems to grow old.
Some other examples of “remove before flight” gifts are keychains, tags, and mini flags. They are perfect for travel lovers or anyone who frequently flies. If you know someone who is always on the go, a “remove before flight” gift is a great way to show you understand their interest in aviation.
Remove Before Flight James Webb Telescope
A popular meme in 2022 was supposed to be the first image from the James Webb telescope after its successful positioning and unfurling of its various arrays. The gag was that nothing could be seen because someone had forgotten to carry out the instruction – remove before flight.
The European Space Agency (ESA) later pointed out that this same joke had been used several years previously on April Fool’s day in 2016 when one of its operators had tweeted the same message after the launch of the ESA/Roscosmos ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter.
An essential part of the preflight checks is the landing gear. The aircraft may successfully take off but there could be problems with the landing if the gear is not working optimally. The chocks need to be removed from the wheels and any remove before flight tags removed from the linkage and any other mechanical parts.
Non removal of the flight ribbons may mean that the gear does not fully retract after takeoff. This can cause drag and thereby affect the aircraft’s performance. The aircraft will use up more fuel which will have a knock-on effect on the pilot’s calculations for the flight ahead. By the time the warning appears in the cockpit it will be too late.