Back when I was learning to fly (about 200 years ago!) the first thing I was told was that before take-off I shoud take a good look round and check the take-off area for potential obstacles, then keep looking around throughout the flight. Real pilots had swivelling heads. So ... before take-off, check the area for high obstacles in particular, but also for other aircraft. In addition, before take-off we had to commit a check-list to memory, aided by an obscene mnemonic which I won't repeat here. The mnemonic went TTMMPFFFGGH:
Throttle friction nut tight
Trim for takeoff
Magnetos on both
Pitch fine (or fixed)
Flaps correctly set to the take-off position
Flying controls full and free movement
Fuel sufficient for the journey, fuel pump selected ON, fullest tank selected
Gyros erect and set
Gauges in the green
Hatches closed and locked, harness secure and tight.
If the pilots in the video below had just taken that first bit of advice, they might have been able to follow Frank's lyrics and fly with him. And if the last chap in the film had been taught by my old instructors, he would have learned that the first step before landing is to make sure the landing area is clear. If only ...