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Training Tip: Word trapsTraining Tip: Word traps

The regional airline first officer had just completed the day’s flying and was hurrying through postflight chores in hopes of deadheading home when bad news intervened.

From initial walk-around to walking away pilots should make use of appropriate checklists to ensure the safety of those in the aircraft and on the ground. Photo by Mike Fizer.

One of the engines of the Canadair Regional Jet had been left unsecured, “with flight crew not in the immediate area.”

In plain language, the crew had walked off, leaving one of the twinjet’s engines running.

How could that happen? Not surprisingly, the explanatory narrative rings with words like “haste,” “forgot,” and “presumed.”

If only a warning light could come on every time a pilot falls into these word traps, many embarrassing episodes and unfortunate incidents might be avoided.

“I remember saying my goodbyes to the captain still sitting in his seat as I left the aircraft, whom I presumed would run the power down checklist,” the co-pilot recounted in an Aviation Safety Reporting System filing. “Also in my haste I forgot to do a post flight walk around. During the course of the trip, the captain had done a handful of post flights for me after taking a smoke break outside.”

Out of the chaos of the disrupted postflight routine, feeling rushed, and a precipitous presumption emerged a pearl of wisdom—one that any single-engine airplane pilot who has ever left a checklist resting on a horizontal stabilizer after a preflight, or passed up a refueling opportunity in favor of getting home before dark, or skipped a weather update to save time, should resolve to adopt.

“These moments should be recognized for their propensity to cause mistakes,” the pilot wrote. “Normal items that you do daily with regularity can be overlooked.”

The pilot resolved to remember in the future “that nothing is more important (than) the safety of those on board and on the ground, and to just slow down and make sure everything is completed per the checklist” and company operating procedures.

That rushed feeling isn’t just a pilot's concern. When an air traffic controller created a collision risk by clearing one aircraft to take off while another was landing on a nearby runway, the lesson learned was to slow down, and think things through.

“I did not perform my usual scan of the airport and I just simply forgot about the 13R arrival,” the controller reported. “I need to ensure that I go through all my mental checks before I issue a takeoff clearance.”

In flying, feeling rushed isn’t just unpleasant. It’s also a warning.

Share how you avoid being rushed and making mistakes at

Dan Namowitz

Dan Namowitz

Associate Editor Web
Associate Editor Web Dan Namowitz has been writing for AOPA in a variety of capacities since 1991. He has been a flight instructor since 1990 and is a 30-year AOPA member.
Topics: Flight Training, Student, Aeronautical Decision Making
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