Checklists – Got to Use Them!

On Saturday I flew. I wasn’t sure what I was going to do or where I was going to go. You could say I was in limbo; I just wanted to be in a plane. I probably could have saved some money and just camped out in the Cherokee on the ramp, but instead I started the engine and headed out.

As boring as take offs and landing can become for some people, I always enjoy them. Since I didn’t have a specific plan in mind I figured just getting more time in on the low wing Cherokee would be good idea (most of my training was in a Cessna 172).

The Cherokee is very nice plane to fly and I plan on alternating between this plane and the clubs Arrow with the retractable gear. I have yet to solo in the Arrow, which makes flying in the Cherokee that much more important. They obviously have similar panel layouts, except that GEAR and PROP are the main differences between them.

For the Arrow I created a modified CBGUMP checklist and included Cherokee specific items. Below is just a portion of what I have setup.

On Downwind, Base and Final 105-95-85 mph

Fuel Flow – 10 to 12 Gallons
Carb Heat – ON (Cherokee)
Boost Pump – ON
Gear – Down DARK to (3) GREEN < 150
Mixture – FULL
Prop – FULL
Primer – Set and Locked (Cherokee)

But today I was not flying the Arrow and didn’t have a Cherokee only checklist. But if I did it would have looked more like this:

Carb Heat – ON
Boost Pump – ON
Mixture – FULL
Primer – Set and Locked

I have imprinted in my memory a melody for remembering the Arrow checklist. I did this because it’s so important to HAVE THREE GREEN when you extend your gear!

However, today I was going to test myself. After using the checklist a few times I threw caution to the wind and decided to not use the checklist after one of my take offs. So after my sixth landing I flew away from Penn Yan and headed northeast.

As I obtained cruise altitude I shut off the boost pump and my landing light. That concluded my mental cruise climb checklist. I headed across the lake and over toward Finger Lakes Regional. I had heard that the runway was closed so I thought I would check it out. I arrived to see a paving project going on and after I circled to take a good look I headed back toward Penn Yan.

So as I was coming back and watching the low clouds I decided to fiddle with the GPS. Although the clouds were too low for an instrument approach, I played around with it anyway. After a few minutes I decided that it was more important to fly the plane and not bother setting up the GPS, which was pretty much on every screen that I didn’t need to land at Penn Yan.

As I reached the airport I decided to do a mid-field crosswind for runway one. I made all of my radio calls and away I went. I crossed mid-field and turned mid-downwind and came around and landed. As I cleared the active I reviewed my performance and discovered that I didn’t do the following:

Landing Light  – ON
Boost Pump – ON

I never touched these apparently. My landing light could have come on when I did my 10 mile out call, but I didn’t do it.

In the pattern I was occupied by doing something I never really did much as a pilot, a mid-field crosswind, so I lost track and missed out on turning on the boost pump.

My conclusion is that as great as my memory might be for some things, it can’t be trusted to remember all the things that I need for a flight. That’s a fact Jack!

I hate to admit it, but part of me wants to be macho and think “Yeah…no problem…I can do this from memory.” Yet part of me says, “Ya’ know, commercial pilots use checklists.” So it isn’t a sissy thing to use one or admit that you need one. Obviously, it would have been even more important to use it in the Arrow, since the Cherokee’s fixed gear gives me some cover from a seriously dumb mistake.

The fact is that I learn something new EVERY time when I fly! (whether I like it or not)

2 thoughts on “Checklists – Got to Use Them!

  1. The first time I tried to rely on my memory for the checklist ending up being embarrassing. I told my CFI that when I pulled the sump for the fuel nothing came out. He tried and nothing came out for him. He said it must be plugged and went to get the mechanic.

    The mechanic came over to the plane and tried the sump and nothing but a trickle came out. Then he looked at me and said “Did you turn the fuel on?” Up to this point in time I never had to because it was always on. Whoever used the plane on the previous day had shut the fuel off.

    From that point on I did the checklist from memory but then verified it with the actual checklist. I wasn’t about to be embarrassed again.

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