September 2008 Issue

Forget The Checklist

In an emergency, reaching for the checklist could be the worst thing to do. Know and perform your aircraftís memory items, then grab the checklist.

Every Flight Manual, every Pilotís Operating Handbook and every aftermarket pilotís guide contains checklists. Normal and emergency, and in some airplanes, abnormal and alternate procedures checklists attempt to cover most situations youíre likely to encounter. The FAA, instructors and authors (myself included) expend great effort trying to get pilots to use printed checklists. So it may seem odd to read there are times when a printed series of steps is too cumbersome to use. There are some times when you should forget the checklist. Most in-flight situations are not so time-critical that forgetting to move a switch or control spells immediate disaster. These conditions provide enough time for you to make inputs or move controls, then as time permits pull out a checklist and verify you have forgotten nothing. For instance, when leveling off from climb to cruise you may forget to close cowl flaps; the engine may cool rapidly as airflow accelerates, and cooling drag may prevent the airplane from reaching its maximum speed. But the engineís not going to quit, and the airplane isnít going to fall from the sky. Level off, then as time permits reference a printed checklist to catch and correct your omission.

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