When flying a basic light aircraft with no "modern" instrument the pilot needs to remember to do various checks on a regular basis (FREDA every x minutes, change fuel tank every Y minutes etc.).

Just flying the plane can be consuming a lot of attention (especially without auto-pilot or if you become unsure of your position) and it's easy to forget to run those checks. I wouldn't want to forget changing fuel tank so I was wondering:

What are the tools that I can use to make sure that all checks are done on time?

  • @Pondlife That one is about "go through your checklist" and pre-flight checks. What I'm asking is for "tricks" to make sure I don't forget to actually run the checks while in flight, when workload and other things can divert your attention. – assylias May 30 '17 at 18:05
  • 1
    Ah, OK. I've edited your question to make it a little clearer that you're interested in in-flight checks. – Pondlife May 30 '17 at 18:14
  • Note: question amended to avoid an "Opinion based etc." closure. – assylias May 30 '17 at 22:01
  • A checklist that includes going through the pre-flight checklist? – Jojodmo May 31 '17 at 6:07
up vote 7 down vote accepted

I guess I have just been flying too long. I just have chores that I do every five minutes, and I lookup my watch/clock probably two times a minute. So it's pretty hard to miss things. Even when flying an aircraft without an electrical system.

On my knee board I keep a list of things that I have to do in Zulu time, such as reports, fuel changes and things like that.

I don't like relying on smartphones, tablets or specific equipment in the plane with the exception of a timer, which almost every plane has, and a clock. I have a back up to the timer and the clock on my knee board. As of yet the math is still something I can manage.

I encourage you to consider the same, because a reliance an electronic systems will create inconsistencies if you move between different aircraft. On the other hand if you rely on simple timekeeping instruments, which you carry backups for with you on every flight, then you can move from one aircraft to another with confidence that you can still manage the temporal tasks.

In my view, the best tool for reminding yourself of recurring "household chores" is by using a timer, if the noise profile of your aircraft allows it. (Try it! You can probably hear more than you think, even in a loud prop). Either use a kitchen timer (which has a really simple physical interface, although two hands may be required) or your smartphone (a bit more complex interface, typically allows for single hand usage, with the added benefit that you can run multiple independent timers, and that the alarm will not stop sounding until you dismiss it). Modern GA EFIS (for example G1000) typically have timing facilities built in.

If you are unable to use an actual timer, determine the interval of the task (for example every 15 minutes), and use your normal watch. (For example "Check the tank every time the minute-hand passes the 0, 15, 30, 45 marks").

  • train yourself to look at the watch (wristwatch,cockpit,etc) at least once a minute, just like part of the instrument scan. Pro: It gives you an awareness of the time elapsed, and also helps with lost comms scenarios,etc. Cons: might develop into OCD
  • pick a visible landmark ahead along your route. "when we pass that large hill, I will check fuel, and contact radar". It works surprisingly well (at least for me), as the brain instinctively/subconsciously recognizes passing abeam a landmark and raises the alarm on it's own. Pro: easiest to train and execute. Cons: well, you need landmarks
  • you can use a timer/alarm (wristwatch, phone, tablet). Pro: works every time. Cons: you become reliant on that phone/tablet, and having that alarm going off while on final approach can be annoying
  • if you use a flightplan with waypoints pick some of them (usually 30-60 mins apart) and circle them with a big red pen. ( if you have the FMS capability draw a circle arround them on the ND and an abeam line).Pro: well, it works. Cons: doesn't work well on VFR flights, since there aren't so many waypoints and they are too far apart.

Every flight has different phases. For example, climbing, enroute, before landing, take off, landing, and others.

When you are in a phase of flight, then you do the chores that you learn to do when you are taking flight lessons. Using a checklist allows you to not forget anything that needs to be done, like lowering the landing gear!

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