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2/22/19    Home | Articles | Training | Instructor's Corner | Airplanes | Travelogues | PIREPS | For CFIs | ATPs | Pilot for Hire

By Ryan Ferguson

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6. Use an IFR departure checklist.

I'll raise my hand and freely admit I've taken off without being totally prepared for entering the clouds, copying an amended clearance from departure after I'm handed off, and realizing my radios aren't even properly set. There's no excuse for it, and it can be avoided with CRM.

Flying a light twin in IMC carries a higher workload than a single; there are more pre-departure checklists to run through. I find that I'm more apt to miss something by not following an IFR departure checklist. So, I made one. This is a checklist specifically for the departure aspect of your flight, not preparing the airplane for departure. It includes:

IFR Departure Checklist

  • Preflight of IFR instruments complete?
  • All enroute charts to be used for this leg ready for use?
  • Cockpit is organized with all items in their proper locations?
  • Radios set for departure?
  • Radios set for return to airport if need be? (Nav #2)
  • Navaids ID'd, including NDB or LOM for the approach back to the airport?
  • Proper DP (if applicable) clipped to yoke and ID'd?
  • IAP for departure airport available if we need to return to the airport?
  • Airplane checklist open to 'Emergencies' section for fast access?
  • Mental brief complete? (Big picture of what I'm doing)
  • Airplane pre-departure checklist complete?

I'll tweak this based on whether I'm flying in VMC or IMC. If I'm making a departure directly into IMC, I follow the full checklist; otherwise I don't pull approach plates for my departure airport.

"There are so many numbers and black and white charts involved in IFR flying that it's occasionally easy to forget that you're flying in a very 3-dimensional, green and blue world."

I added the 'mental brief' checklist item to make sure that I always understood the 'big picture' of how ATC intended to handle my departure. There are so many numbers and black and white charts involved in IFR flying that it's occasionally easy to forget that you're flying in a very 3-dimensional, green and blue world. Is my departure taking me into or away from weather? Is there a weather system I'm trying to beat? If I'm forced to hold, how long do I have before my destination becomes socked in? I take a moment or two and just glance over the charts and consider my options, and perhaps what I'll do if any of these events occur. I also take mental stock of where the terrain, if any, exists, what the winds are doing, and any local peculiarities that I should be familiar with (like a navaid that is hard to pick up under certain altitudes.)

7. Write down all frequency changes for the duration of the flight.

If you lose comms, you'll need this to refer to the last facility you were working with prior to the failure. Grab your handheld and do what you have to do to get back in touch. (You do have a handheld, don't you?)

8. Develop a CRM storage 'system.'

This is unique to each and every pilot, and in some cases, unique to the airplanes they fly. Have a system which you stick with whenever you fly. I'm referring specifically to where you store things in the airplane for an IFR (or VFR) flight. In an emergency, being able to reach anywhere in the cockpit to retrieve something and know it will be at your fingertips is invaluable. Here's how I set up my airplane:

Passenger seatback pocket
  • POH
  • Flashlight #1
  • Handheld transceiver and headset attachement adapter
  • Leatherman (to use if I need to pry a burnt-out gear bulb out of its socket, for example)

    Pilot side pouch

  • Manual E6-B
  • Extra pens/pencils
  • Flashlight #2

    Copilot side yoke

  • Handheld GPS #1 (Garmin 295, mounted to yoke)

    Passenger seat (if no passenger)

  • Fuel log
  • Nav log
  • Charts for next leg
  • NOS IAPs for region I'm flying through
  • VFR WAC for region
  • Aircraft checklist always left open to Emergency section

    Clipboard (on lap)

  • Current low-level IFR enroute chart
  • Notes
  • Weather briefing printout from DUATS
  • Freq change log
  • Time off (recorded every time I depart so I know what time ATC expects me at the destination if I lose comms)
  • STAR for the arrival if I've been assigned one

    Flight bag (in back right seat)

  • Spare batteries
  • Flashlight #3
  • Electronic E6-B (rarely use it in flight)
  • Handheld GPS #2 (Garmin Pilot III)
  • Spare headset (mine has failed in the past)

    Back left seat

  • Emergency survival kit (small kit that I can grab and get out of the plane quickly if need be I leave it sitting on the seat)

    Cargo area

  • Back left seat back Flashlight #4, full-sized white lens flashlight
  • Emergency medical kit
  • Extra oil

  • Seems like a lot of extra stuff to account when listed in that fashion, but it actually leaves the airplane almost completely empty and ready for 3 other passengers and their bags. I always pack the airplane exactly this way reaching for the POH, whether it's for a cruise power setting or to read up on an emergency procedure, is second nature because it's always located on the pax seat back. Even a simple system wherein you keep your flashlights and tools in one location, charts and pencils in another can be quite helpful when things get hectic. Next: keeping it simple.

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