Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Checklists from Memory: A Good Flying Practice?

I learned to fly out of Oakland International Airport, a Class C airport located under San Francisco's Class B airspace. It was a busy environment, and oftentimes strict adherence to the checklist was not possible on departure. I had to rely on memory, which is good for a pilot who flies frequent, but can be troublesome for a pilot who does not (that would be me).

What to do?

As I gained experience multiple piston engine aircraft, I noticed commonalities between each aircraft's climb checklist. So, to make fly easier, I thought up the following rhyming memory aid:


Each word is an aid to trigger specific actions for different aircraft systems. For example, after take-off when climbing out, I run the memory checklist as follows:

Power - Set throttles to climb manifold pressure, set prop lever to climb RPM
Pump - Turn off fuel pump(s)
Clean - Select/verify flaps up, verify gear is up, close cowl flaps
Lean - Set mixture lever (as required)
Pitch- Pitch for climb-out airspeed
Switch - Turn off landing lights

I've used this generic checklist while flying Cessna 172s and 182s, Diamond DA40 Diamond Stars, and even PA44 Piper Seminole (a light twin). It simplifies the transition from take-off to climb out while negotiating busy airspace.

Even when I'm not flying a real airplane, I use the same memory checklist when I practice flying on my desktop simulator. (I regularly practice IFR flying on the stock Beechcraft Baron on Microsoft Flight Simulator 2004.) Training reinforces both good and bad habits. So train the way you fly, and fly the way your train. Discover your own good flying habits.

-Dr. Dave

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