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Use That Checklist!

in Aviation Blog, Flight Safety

This post was sent in by Brannen M. Sanders (Former CFI #1732539) on November 24, 2011.

Let’s face it, cranking up a Cessna 150 or a Piper Cherokee or one of the many other light aircraft is a pretty simple affair, actually not much harder than cranking up a car.

I got into the habit of ALWAYS using a checklist whether it is for cranking up the airplane, doing the Run Up or Pre-Landing. What I have noticed over the years is that light plane pilots that don’t use check lists, sooner or later, screw up. Sometimes it is a minor glitch or it can be major.

A friend of mine, who never used a checklist, owned a Piper Comanche and one day he managed to land it with the landing gear in the “Up” position. He was an experienced pilot, yet somehow he forgot to lower the landing gear. What is the old saying: “If you don’t use a Pre-Landing Check List, sooner or later you will land “Gear Up.”

Moral of this story: Always use a Check List.

Density Altitude Charts…Who ever uses them?

Most airports in the United States have runways that are designed to take turboprops or biz jets or even airliners. So, length of the runway is hardly ever a consideration for the pilot of a light aircraft.

Although it is rare, one will occasionally end up on a runway that is short, even by light plane standards, especially if your airplane is loaded with fuel and passengers. Whenever that would happen to me, prior to take-off I would open my flight manual to the Density Altitude Chart to check and see IF I had enough runway to clear the trees at the end of the field.

I know of a case where a Piper Arrow loaded with passengers and their luggage DIDN’T clear the trees at the end of a field. [It was a fatal combination of an overloaded aircraft and a hot day.] Everyone in the airplane died. I knew the pilot and the FBO that operated the Arrow and when I heard of the tragedy, I was fairly certain that the pilot never even looked at his Density Altitude Chart. Needless to say, the operation was slip shod at best.

So, whenever there is any question about the length of the runway you have available, check out your Density Altitude Chart! The manufacturer of your airplane put that chart in the flight manual for a reason!


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