Pilot's tip of the week

Flow Patterns and Checklists

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Subscriber question:

 "How should the checklist be used in a single pilot operation?" - Aurelio H.

Wally:

“Since most pilots are human beings and subject to error and forgetfulness, we proved long ago that we need help to keep us safe. That’s when checklists were invented.

I have done many check rides and flight reviews where the pilot was trying to impress me with how carefully they used the checklist. They would read a step, then do it, then read again and do again. Trouble is that often after doing a step, they would return to the check list on a different line, thereby missing one or more steps. So using the check list as a to-do list does not work.

Pilot checklistFor normal operations, pilots should develop a flow pattern for each phase of flight. The flow pattern should cover all the steps to get ready for that phase.

After completing the flow pattern, the check list should then be used to insure nothing was missed. This is the procedure that is used by most all professional pilots.

Now emergency procedures may be the same or different. Some emergencies don’t give us much time to use a check list, such as a sudden engine failure at low altitude. In that case, one needs to develop a flow pattern to correct the situation if possible and then if time permits, use the emergency check list to insure you have not missed a step.

Other problems like an alternator failure give us lots of time to use the emergency check list in a step by step manner to see if we can correct the problem. Since that is a procedure that we do not do every day, using the checklist as a guide is appropriate.

A checklist deficiency I often see is the use of the word GUMPS as a mental-only check list for landing in a retractable gear aircraft. Some pilots even use it three times – downwind, base and final. However, only using a mental check list is like not using a check list at all. Using GUMPS for a flow pattern followed by a written check list is the way it should be done.

I am convinced that every pilot who has ever landed an aircraft gear up failed to use their checklist. If they had, it would have told them to put the gear down. So I tell pilots if you’re going to use a mental checklist (only), you’re in the group that can land gear up.”

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