Paper or plastic

So … what is YOUR opinion on checklists, fellow chickens? I still like paper, preferably laminated (utility helicopters are like tractors, they are usually a little dirty and oily), even though I love the iPad and especially the Foreflight app as established in my previous posts. The overheating issue of your iPad or smart phone is really a problem for us in the fire world. When you sit in a field in New Mexico in June, it is hard to keep them cool enough so they don’t shut down on you when you need them to go fly. You have to be very conscientious where you put your electronics while you refuel. We actually take our iPads out of the cockpit and find some shade for them.

Before we started standardizing checklists on what was then a new aircraft to the civilian utility helicopter world, we had a few “Chucks” around who didn’t believe in checklists at all. They quickly learned that the Chinook likes being shut down in a certain sequence and that there is a reason for said sequence. If you skip steps and/or worse “forget” steps, the FADEC computers get confused and you end up with all kinds of problems and error messages on your next start. Continuing this practice also proofed to anger the maintenance crew to a point that the occasional “lucky wrench” might be launched towards your head. So, while you might get away with not using a checklist in smaller aircraft, in heavy helicopters it might just be dangerous for your health.

Now, I know nobody is going to admit online that they are not using a checklist so I’ll lead with, yes, in smaller helicopters with very few systems and on those days you fly with the doors open, I have not used checklists before. No need to get it sucked into the tail rotor either. But for the last 6+ years in more complex and bigger aircraft with more systems I feel like I’d never get away with it. Plus I feel the older I get, the less I seem to remember so it’s really good to have that thing keep you on track….

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6 comments on “Paper or plastic
  1. Anthony says:

    On the 777 we have an electronic checklist which ticks off boxes as you complete actions. This is obviously a luxury not afforded to many. iPads (other electronic flight bags are available) are great for having all your data in one place, especially at night where you don’t want to have to fiddle around with lights or try and find the torch you dropped. Having a paper back-up is a must for those unforeseen circumstances though.

  2. J Z says:

    True enough, nobody here but us chickens. Speaking of which, getting called a chicken – what would Chuck say to that one?

    Regarding paper vs plastic, I can’t think of a good reason not to carry a paper backup to at least a few critical charts and checklists. Only two issues seem worthy of mention – weight, and in most aircraft that I can think of, it’s not going to be nearly significant enough to run the risk; or space, which also usually isn’t a substantial ask. If paper really hurts, I suppose that one could always tab out the POH, though try flipping through that in an immediate-type emergency or anything greater than light-moderate turbulence. Paper doesn’t overheat, break if it hits the ground, or get misplaced and/or stolen if it isn’t watched (and besides, don’t we have enough stressors in this industry without adding another one?). On the other hand, electronics are one-stop shops for nearly all the data you could ever use, all at the push of a couple of buttons; they include things that paper could only dream of, including weather; and they’re fully interactive.

    This betrays a much more serious issue, however. Something that I’ve started to see is that the more technology is available, the less people are looking outside the cockpit, at least for VFR. The consequences are potentially severe, but may stem from some of the following: Despite a mandate for it next year, not everyone out there is going to be equipped with ADS-B Out – or a transponder – because it isn’t required in most of the national airspace system. Similarly, most cornfields – also known as an airport-for-those-of-us-having-a-very-bad-day, or to some of us, just an airport – will not be depicted, which means that if one should be needed, much time will be lost just looking for one because nobody ever practices looking. Ditto for the old pen-and-paper flight plans, VOR navigation, Flight Service, and a host of other things that could be very useful as backups.

    The sum total is this – many EFBs are fantastic, would consider them for planning purposes in a minute. They’re excellent crutches, and will get you out of a pinch on a moment’s notice. But the thing is, a crutch is most useful when things go wrong, when that broken leg needs mending and you still need to walk from here to there. If it is used all the time, with a pair of healthy legs, then the legs will go lame from neglect. Nobody said it would always be easy to use paper, but if this were easy then we’d all be in different professions; and once the hard-to-acquire and much-fought-for skills are lost, they’re very difficult to get back, and the worst time to find out how much you don’t remember is when you have to pull a rabbit out of your hat with it. Both paper and plastic have their places, but it’s important to respect the limitations of each.

    A closing thought – every marine is first and foremost a rifleman; every pilot learns the fundamentals first, and the first rule of flying the plane is to always fly the plane – not the iPad.

    And of course – fly safe.

  3. Joshua says:

    The iPad checklist are just too difficult to use and require clicking away from any navigation function. This simply is not practical. The added functionality of being able to highlight completed tasks offers no benefit to the average checklist. They simply are not long enough

    Paper is the way to go.

  4. Fbs says:

    I would be definitely for paper for check-lists. Convenient, always-on, never out of battery….as long as you keep them as straight check lists, not a Digest of the flight manual (you also have the flight manual anyways).

    However, while I’m clear advocate to fly VFR with the watch and compass first, nowadays busy and complex airspaces are such that just not being lost is no longer sufficient. Changing anything to your planned flight because the wind pushes you left or right, or decide to go at another altitude puts you at risk to make some unexpected and unwanted airspace intrusion. Therefore, « following » the line on the screen is the way to go, and also, always be in contact with information services. They will watch also for you if you’re heading in the wrong direction – much better than entering a class D without invitation

  5. L says:

    Paper vs plastic vs digital? Should not matter. Whatever the PIC is comfortable with and whatever makes it more efficient and safer for everyone. *shrug*
    Sure, paper can blow off in the wind. iPads can overheat or die from insufficient battery capacity.
    I myself prefer laminated hardcopy so that I can carry it around the outside during preflight etc.
    However, we often forget that a checklist is just that: a CHECK list. A list for us to check that we did have not forgotten to do something, that we should be able to perform without the checklist (should it blow away or kill the battery).
    Mental checklists, such as GUMPS or FULAPY, are just as effective and they won’t get lost. 🙂
    Be safe up there and most importantly: have fun!

  6. Tobias says:

    Laminated paper, everything else is too difficult to use when flying. Paper isn’t shutting down, no need to swipe paper.

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