Perennial aviation argument that generates equal amounts of heat and light: Should you use a checklist or not?
We dont have a dog in that fight and we claim no moral high ground on whether to use the thing as a double check for tasks done by memory, as a pre-action Gospel According to Piper or a fly swatter, for that matter. Its your airplane.
That said, there are number of commercially prepared checklists on the market and herewith is a survey.
The point of departure is whether any of these products improves on what you can make for yourself by introducing your POH to a copy machine and applying some laminate from the office supply house.
Pilot Products in Kansas City makes two sizes of checklists, an 8.5 x 11-inch seat-pocket size and a spiral bound pocket version. Both appear sturdy with good contrast, if visually uninspired.
It looks like the spiral-bound Avtech will hold up better, since the pages are embedded in laminate rather than flush-cut. The front side of the larger version has everything up to cruise and the backside is descent, landing and emergencies. The pocket variety has phases of flight complete on a page in a logical sequence.
The first section of each is devoted to V speeds and the 182P version we had listed speeds in both knots and MPH. Whether you need the next sections on general power plant specs is a judgment call. The core entries are largely right out of the POH for a mid-70s 182 and early 80s 152 (the two examples we reviewed), although the 182 version commanded flaps down for the preflight and flaps up before starting, which is a lot of battery on a cold day. We were amused at a couple of nag items on the descent checklist. In smaller type, youre advised to get ATIS and theres a general advisory to anticipate turbulence. In larger type underneath is, Plan a descent rate that will be comfortable for your passengers. Heck, we always thought the shrieks of anguish from the back were enough of a reminder for that.
We could quibble about the order of priorities on a couple of emergency procedures. For example, on engine failure in flight, Avtech advises to trim for best glide, pick a landing site-they feel compelled to tell you to fly toward it-and then pull the carburetor heat. Conversely, youre on your own for anything not involving the engine, such as electrical problems or even an engine fire other than at start-up. The last four pages have all sorts of miscellaneous and occasionally peculiar information including IFR mandatory reporting points, light gun signals, how to read VASIs, the hijack squawk and that ubiquitous quote about superior pilots and superior judgment.
Avtech has checklists available for nearly 40 types. The big pocket card variety is $12.95 for a single and $17.95 for a twin. The spiral version is $17.45 and $22.45, respectively. Theyre available directly from Avtech or through the Sportys catalog.
Chapps Checker is the creation of Bob Chappelle and consistent with what began as a home grown product, only 15 models are covered, all Cessna or Piper. These come only in a spiral-bound pocket size version and, unlike the Avtech version, are printed on only one side. Theyre laminated and appear reasonably durable, although not as heavily laminated as Avtechs entry.
One nice feature is that each page is a different size, with the topic showing at the bottom, making it effortless to turn directly to what you want. We looked at the Checker for the new 182 and a generic 152. Three of the initial pages are devoted again to cabin and exterior checks, the first and foremost of which is Hobbs & Tach….Check and record. (Can we guess the intended market?)
Theres even a wipeable page for recording the frequencies youll need. Unfortunately, the main body of this list is for normal procedures only; no entries for short or soft field takeoff and landing. The Chapps Checker dispenses with initial takeoff emergencies, which ought to be memory items anyway. (When was the last time you took time to drag out a checklist for a takeoff abort?)
Instead, the last two pages concern themselves with in-flight ohmigoshes missing from the Avtech product, including engine fire and electrical troubleshooting. Chapps Checker is supposedly available these days exclusively through Sportys at $12.95 each. As of this writing, however, the Web site was still up and offering the product for $9.95.
Behind Door Number 3 is a slick and visually appealing replacement checklist from Surecheck. Theyve taken a different cut on the issue, offering two kinds of checklists. The PRO series is a kneeboard size laminated one-pager. By dint of thoughtful design and good use of graphics, Surecheck has has crammed lots of useful and accessible information onto one small card in the 182P version we reviewed.
All the basics are correct and in place with a variety of useful tidbits tucked here and there, including tire pressures, a cruise power profile and chart ruler along one side. The one quibble we have with the PRO single-pager is the reduced contrast resulting from the darker background color in the emergencies section. Seems to us that this section ought to be starker to facilitate review under an adrenalin dump.
What Surecheck calls the full version is a spiral bound volume thats substantially bigger than the ones above which bill themselves as pocket size but slightly smaller than the single-page kneeboard offering. Its lightly laminated and flush-cut, but looks like it will hold up well. We reviewed the 172 product and they arent kidding when they say full. The preflight page starts out with a mandate to check the aircraft maintenance records, weather, performance data and-get this -Money for Fuel (cross-country)….Check. (Are you listening, flight schools?)
Each section of the full version is labeled and color tabbed for direct access. Emergencies, oddly enough, are in red. V speeds, light gun signals and another sectional ruler are on the back of the last page. The flow is sensible, accurate and includes the same items we noted with approval in the other offerings. We think CFIs, flight schools and student pilots in particular could do worse than giving Surecheck a look. In fact, Surechecks materials indicate that theyll create a custom checklist for individual flight schools (not to mention letting you market their other products).
Well over 100 hundred separate versions are available, according to the price list. The single page PRO retails for $8.95 single engine, $9.95 multi. The FULL version goes for $14.95 single and $19.95 twin. Their materials list but they didnt provide for review what they call a pocket version. These sell for $4.95 and $5.95, single and multi respectively.
The top prize for picking an adroit product name has to go to CheckMate, which has taken a slightly different approach. In addition to the basic POH-type checklist, they now market what they call a universal IFR checklist.
No spiral-bound iterations here. There are three laminated single-page card sizes, 6.5 x 9, 5 x 7 and 3.75 x 6.25 inches. If your vision is absolutely perfect and you can handle little bitty type, take a look at Baby Bear.
As for the larger kneeboard and seat pocket sizes, the one we saw for the new 182 is nicely detailed, including checks for the seat back and track. The last entry under Pre-takeoff is Abort Plan – Ready! which is a nice touch.
Under emergencies, CheckMate puts carb heat where it belongs for an inflight power interruption in a 182, right after best glide and before anything else and, unlike the others, reminds you to consider wind in picking a landing spot.
CheckMate is unique among this group in offering a checklist specifically for IFR flight and it definitely is detailed, including specific reminders under Cockpit Prep about currency, spare batteries and the like. The IFR version of CheckMate even reminds you to update weather in cruise and maintain a sterile cockpit during descent.
The backside of the IFR CheckMate includes all the goodies youd expect, including icing criteria, a hold entry diagram, alternate requirements and the lost comm litany. Weve never seen anything quite like it (except in home grown checklists) and the methodical, organized flow would be a boon to any instrument student or pilot who hasnt quite gotten his organizational act together yet.
CheckMate says they have editions available for more than 200 models of aircraft, including 14 different 172s. Suggested retail for the three single-engine and the IFR check list card sizes is $9.95, $12.95 and $14.95. The twin versions go for $12.95, $14.95, and $16.95.
In case youre wondering, we didnt include the electronic checklist Sportys was marketing for a while because the units are no longer available, although Sportys advises that the cartridges still can be obtained.
Assuming youve got more than a couple of logbook pages under your belt, the best bet of all would probably be to take a little time and effort and create your own checklist with a word processor, a few approach plate protectors and a couple of rings.
If thats just not your cup of tea, the spiral-bound full Surecheck version is worth considering, especially for a neophyte pilot. More experienced, minimalist pilots would do fine with one of CheckMates cards. Instrument students and rusty or disorganized cloud busters can surely benefit from CheckMates IFR version, but we dont consider it a must-have item.
-by Jane Garvey
Jane Garvey is a freelance writer, attorney and owner of a Cessna 182. Shes a regular contributor to Aviation Consumer.