The airline I used to work for had a fair number of employees, so we had our own part-council for the flight deck crews. My job was to scan through loads of trip reports and signal certain tendencies. Whether it was complaints about work and rest time exceedances or crew hotels with deteriorating service. Anything pertinent to our operating sphere was noted if it happened more frequently than just a one-off. Since the airline was part ad-hoc charter operator they had frequently changing destinations. For example, when there was more cargo on board for Muscat, Oman I.S.O. Abu Dhabi, which was a regular destination, the plane would be dispatched to Muscat. Operations took care of all the changes required but they frequently forgot two things; crew hotel and crew transport.
One day a crew pulled into Muscat and found that again no hotel reservation was made, no car was arranged. So, they had the handling agent call around and the agent came up empty-handed. Some sort of convention was going on (that was way before Zoom calls) and every room was booked. The handling agent called the only remaining option for accommodations, the Al Bustan - a palatial hotel where the Sultan used to put up his personal guests and friends. “Let’s go there,” the Captain said happily. For thousands of dollars, they got a huge suite with rooms for the Captain, the First Officer, and the Flight Engineer. They had carts with booze and food, a lackey, personal waiters, all the trimmings any airline pilot should be bestowed with on a daily basis. Of course, back home at Schiphol people were less amused. However, a while later the same mistake was made again by Ops in some other location. And again, and then again.
Every two months, our little council had an afternoon with the Head of Flight Operations. We often invited people from other parts of the company that we wanted to talk to, based on our harvest of trip reports. This time we invited the Head of Ops Control together with his sidekick. We dished up a bundle of trip reports about the lack of follow up when an airplane was rerouted to a different destination. Every time no crew transport was waiting, no hotel reservation was made. These mistakes were costing the company money. We suggested; why don’t you guys start using checklists? For a flight to be operated smoothly from A to Z, execute every required task, and noted with a checkmark when done. They guffawed; A checklist? You could see them think, that they are smarter than that. Only dumb and absent-minded people need checklists. But eventually, they started using them.
A while ago I talked to a friend who owns a house painting business. Every day his painters drive for almost two hours to a certain job. I asked him, does it happen frequently that once they get there, get to work, they find out they didn’t bring one thing or another? Like a special primer or certain paint rollers? Then they go to a local wholesaler and are gone for the better part of the morning? It happens a lot, the guy sighed. I told him, develop a checklist and train them to use it as if they go to the supermarket. You could even have an application on their phone with the warehouse shopping list coupled to an ignition blocker or something that prevents them from driving away until they completed every item. He looked at me with eyes like saucers. It feels so good when you are regarded as a rocket scientist! I still want to ask him if he ever followed up on it.
The airline pilots visiting this site know about the importance of checklists. On most modern airplanes some sort of alarm starts wailing at you when you haven’t finished a crucial checklist. In flight school, you learn how to use checklists. However, you could still skip it if you are in a hurry (which is never good) or, if you think you are such an ace that you don’t need a checklist. Wrong!! Omissions like this have a nasty habit of hitting you in the face at the most inopportune moment. At that moment it rattles your nerves, you start looking over your shoulder and ask yourself if you forgot anything. That’s where you end up ‘behind the power curve.’
Safe flying begins with adhering to procedures, like using a checklist. Do not cut corners. Cutting corners will cost you! A checklist reduces errors and ensures consistency and completeness in carrying out a duty. Never skip an applicable checklist, because by following it you create time and a clear mind for the everyday non-standard stuff. And no flight is ever standard. Also, training flights are not standard and certainly not those where you go solo or solo cross-country.
Time and time again, checklists have proven that they work. So, take the time needed to create a checklist and be safe and sure.
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