June 2017 Issue

Humans And Checklists

Nobody’s perfect, and pilots are far from it, so we need formal methods of remembering things, and ways to remember to remember them.

When I got my private at age 18, I was flying a Cessna 152 off a pasture. It didn’t take much to memorize the steps necessary to get the old girl started: I followed the old adage, “Kick the tires and light the fires.” When the checklist said, “Gas on fullest tank,” it was pretty easy, since the 152’s fuel selector is an on/off affair and always draws from both tanks. In my 18-year-old brain, the checklist seemed like an unnecessary list of the obvious. It either directed me to change the airplane’s configuration to what it already was in or change it to one that was patently obvious given the stage of flight. In short, my early experiences did not help me build the best of habits.

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