With the destination airport near, the Cessna 182 pilot disengaged the autopilot—and immediately noticed that the aircraft had been flying “more and more out of trim” to compensate for an unbalanced fuel load. Pondering causes was cut short when the engine quit at 1,500 feet agl, forcing an off-airport landing in a plowed field.
The power loss “was caused by fuel starvation due to the fuel selector switch set to the right tank and the previous flight conducted while on only one tank,” the pilot explained in an Aviation Safety Reporting System filing (a “NASA report”).
That’s fairly typical treatment, so how does a pilot blow the drill?
By not bothering to look at the selector.
The accident was triggered “by the complacency of the Pilot in Command and failure to properly use and abide by checklist procedures in the cockpit,” the pilot wrote, adding, “The belief that the selector switch was ‘Always on Both’ allowed the checklist item to go unnoticed and the enroute phase of flight conducted.”
An energetic discussion challenging and championing checklists arose on an AOPA social media outlet as a byproduct of the Sept. 26 Training Tip’s scenario, in which a student pilot nearly stalls an aircraft while lunging to retrieve a checklist that had been carelessly tossed away earlier in the flight (a poor but not uncommonly observed habit).
Posts discussed how, when, and even whether to use checklists. Is a checklist a “do list”? A back-up? A crutch? Is using it merely a nod to “good form”?
You could look over NASA reports filed by pilots who in distracted moments inadvertently landed retractable-gear airplanes gear-up for insights. Of course, FAA guidance remains in effect; find it on page 1-6 of the Airplane Flying Handbook, excerpted here: “Without discipline and dedication to using the checklist at the appropriate times, the odds are on the side of error. Pilots who fail to take the checklist seriously become complacent and the only thing they can rely on is memory.”
And you’ve seen how reliable memory is.