Posts about aircraft operating procedures
"Gas: leave it alone; undercarriage: three green lights; mixture: rich; prop: full forward; fuel pump: on; seat belts: on and secure. Landing checklist complete," I called out as my instructor Bill and I descended on a long straight-in approach after a lesson. I wasn't referring to the printed checklist, although it was on my lapboard. When approaching to land at busy Reid Hillview airport in San Jose, California, with its high volume of training activity and parallel approaches, I want my eyes outside the airplane as much as possible until we're off the runway and stopped.
"You just lost your engine," said my instructor Rick as he pulled the throttle to idle.
"Best glide speed, pull the prop, turn into the crosswind," I called out. We were just over 1000 feet AGL, climbing out after takeoff from South County airport in San Martin, California. As the A36 Bonanza started slowly coming around, it was clear we weren't going to make it.
"The needle's barely off the peg. Why are you turning inbound already?" asked my instructor Bill.
"I'm used to the localizer coming in pretty fast," I responded. "ATC usually vectors me pretty close to the final approach fix."
I sat in the glider's forward cockpit with my instructor Jimmy in the back seat. We'd just pulled the glider into position on the runway and were waiting for our hookup to the tow plane. As I started calling out the before-takeoff checklist, I knew other gliders were in the area, so I was a bit nervous about sitting on the runway.
It's often observed that most aircraft accidents are caused not by a single error but by a chain of compounding errors. The NTSB accident database is filled with examples.
I've experienced this myself, having occasionally made a series of bad decisions that nearly led to grief, such as the harrowing go-around I wrote about last year. In that case, the error chain continued because at each decision point, I felt bound by previous decisions. I couldn't correct my distance from the runway on downwind because I'd committed to fitting into the flow of traffic in a certain way. I couldn't go around when I realized I was too high on final or when I realized I was too fast on short final because I'd committed to landing. It finally took a badly porpoised landing attempt to prompt my go-around, at which point it was nearly too late.