Checklist, a Simple Thing

Checklist. Sometimes its the simplest things that can be the most important. Maybe not anything that will help you make a good landing or take off from a super short airstrip or make turns about a point perfect in every way. Sometimes there are more important things to do to keep you safely in the sky.

The most important thing you can do before you get off the ground is use a checklist. Everyone who learned to fly was told time and time again to follow a list but its easy to skip over some of the things and just go fly. They are usually simple lists that anyone could memorize. A list of items to get done before flight. Its a list that should be used so you don't forget anything even though you know everything on the list and couldn't forget it if you had to. And then you get a passenger to go for a ride. Its your daughter that talks at a pace that would put an auctioneer to shame and wants to ask every know question about flying and how its done and how its going to feel and how you learned to fly and who has flown with you and what the funny silver knob on the dash is and have you ever flown upside down and can we fly through some clouds and on and on. This is a time that you can miss something even with a checklist in front of you and almost guaranteed without that written list.

Using the list properly involves starting with the list in hand when you first get to the plane. The list should be concise but thorough. Start at the top of the list with a finger following it and move your finger down as you complete each item. It is very easy to look at the list, complete an item and look back at the list and miss the next task. Your finger or thumb should hold your place as you go through the list. The purpose of the checklist is to systematically check for proper operation, any items that are needed for a safe flight. It involves physical aspects of the plane, critical quantities of precious fluid like oil and gas, the condition of the fluids, passenger safety, engine performance and airfield awareness. Skipping any one of these may provide a less than safe and possibly fatal environment for you to fly.

I have seen pilots even with a list, get lost in the process and getting down to starting the plane and nothing happens. Why? They missed the line that says "master on". How could anyone miss that? Or I myself have taxied to the runway in my biplane and the engine quits. Hmmm, some how I forgot to turn the fuel on. Glad I didn't get off the ground! Sat in Big Red with the engine running ready to taxi out and noticed I couldn't steer the Stearman, somebody forgot to take the rudder lock out. Where is that list again...

And when you land its also just as important. If everything isn't turned off, like mags, someone might be admiring your plane while you're eating pancakes and decides to turn the prop a little. Hot mags can make for a disastrous ending when the engine comes to life. A list will help you get all of the important things done, no memory required.

If your airplane doesn't have a checklist, find one that is applicable or make your own. Have it laminated, keep it available and use it. That's all you have to remember is to USE THE LIST! Everything else will be in writing in front of you. Fly safe. If at first you don't succeed, sky diving is probably not for you. A checklist is a good way to help you succeed everytime.

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