I absolutely love aviation. I know it’s kind of silly to say this, but one reason I love it is because of how safe flying is.
Aviation, as with all new modes of transportation, originally traded safety for speed. Just like how a car was faster than a horse, but also more dangerous, flying was the same when it first started.
Luckily, aviation has evolved a lot and now reigns as the safest form of transportation. This is due to successful automation and checklists.
There are so many checklists that it’s actually annoying, but they serve a truly powerful purpose: Remembering everything.
Yeah, there is a butt-load of stuff you have to know to be a pilot. Wouldn’t it be a lot easier if you just had a paper with the stuff you have to remember written on it? That’s why checklists exist. Debatably the most important checklist is the general checklist that the FAA came up with called the PAVE checklist.
When do you use the PAVE checklist? That’s easy. Before every single flight. It’s a very broad checklist that helps you nail down the most important aspects of a flight. The PAVE checklist is incredibly beneficial because, frankly, pilots are human and forget things sometimes.
I promise you will NEVER meet a pilot that will admit this, but it is the actual truth. To be a pilot is to be humble, but only in private. I think there’s a creed somewhere for all pilots to sign that they must act as though they are superhuman and never screw up, but I haven’t found it yet.
Regardless, the PAVE checklist is absolutely critical and goes as follows:
P – Pilot
Yeah, so in case you didn’t realize this; as the pilot you have to be aware of the state of the…um…pilot.
This means you are responsible that you, as the pilot, are of sound body and mind to perform the scope of your duties. You have to be able to make tough choices sometimes as you fly.
Emergencies happen. I know that we all have the mission focused mindset that is incredibly common amongst pilots, but you have to be able to know when to call it quits.
The perfect example can come from a recent experience I had as a flight attendant. My flight was landing in Baltimore, but pulled up REALLY hard at the absolute last minute. The captain then came on the announcements and said, “sorry guys, there was some strong wind shear and we decided to go around to make the landing a lot smoother.”
So, the pilot has to be mentally and physically prepared to make tough calls like that. It was such a rough call because the pilots had been flying for 6 hours already that day, so they wanted to be done. Ultimately, safety always takes precedence.
A – Aircraft
I know this seems pretty obvious, but you really need to double check everything on the aircraft before every flight.
It could seem redundant, but like I said, aviation is the safest form of transportation. One of the reasons for this is largely because of the redundancy of the checks.
Every aircraft has a preflight checklist that must be done before each and every flight. Even if you are an instructor and you just finished a flight lesson with one student and your next student is already ready for you. That same aircraft must be checked once again to make sure that that crazy hard landing the student you just finished your lesson with didn’t knock anything out of alignment.
Again, even airline pilots go through the same preflight checklist before every flight. It doesn’t matter if they just finished a flight in the same airplane; they still do a walk around followed by all the flight deck checks.
Things can happen on the ground too. You could land and get out of the aircraft and have a bug decided to land in your pitot tube and now all your instruments are goofed because you didn’t double check the preflight checklist.
So, check your aircraft before each and every flight.
V – enVironment
Don’t get mad at me because this letter isn’t the start of the word here. I did not come up with this acronym, the FAA did. Everyone has their reasons for disliking the FAA, and this is probably one of my biggest complaints about them.
I’m petty like that though.
It also could be the fact that whipping out a thesaurus could help give a new word to fit in this slot instead.
Regardless, airplanes have limitations. There are legal limitations for certain pilots to fly in certain aircrafts. There are also personal limitations you may impose on yourself.
These limitations can be directly related to the environment.
Sometimes the environment you’re flying from is gorgeous weather, but you just feel like you have to be at this other place and you go despite knowing the weather at the destination airport is bad. That is an environmental limitation.
This is also the number one pet peeve I have working in the aviation industry. I swear passengers never realize that airplanes can’t always fly because of the environment. Even if it isn’t bad weather where you are or your destination, there is also a HUGE expanse of space that is being traversed which has its own environment. Also wind is invisible, so some people need to get that through their heads too.
Long story short, know your environment before you leave because good weather at one place doesn’t mean it’s good at another place.
On top of that, you need to know if your aircraft is even able to land at the airport. An Airbus A320 wouldn’t be able to land at an untowered airport because of the size of the airplane in relation to the airstrip.
Then there are hazards you should know about before going somewhere. Namely, are there trees, mountains, houses, etc. that you need to watch out for at the airport.
Dealing with the environment is the majority of flight planning, so it truly can’t be neglected.
E – External Pressure
I kind of hinted at this earlier, but there are tons of external pressures that can play into your desire to fly.
Personally, I love flying, so one of my external pressures to fly is that I want to get a flight lesson despite not having enough time to properly prepare before the flight and have the right studying done.
This is a huge mistake on my part, but it can easily be helped. If I want to hang out with friends after my lesson so I have to cut the flight short, it can screw up everything.
Other external pressures can be timelines (the number one complaint when airlines are late somewhere. Maybe people should realize pilots aren’t God and can’t guarantee anything.), having a business meeting you have to get to, a person you’re trying to impress, or simply wanting to be home for some event.
There are plenty of potential external pressures that can influence your flight, but the person that is actually doing the flying is the real end all be all for the success of the flight.
Maybe if you’re worried about meeting a strict deadline, you should have a backup plan to make sure you get there in time.
Using the PAVE Checklist
I know we all hate having to follow rules. If you wanted to follow all the rules, you would probably have gone to become an accountant or lawyer to make tons of money that way.
Instead, you made the decision to become a pilot.
You also made the bold decision to come to my site and work to become the greatest pilot of all time. Part of being the best means that you can work through the PAVE checklist without really thinking about it. I’ve always heard that a parent’s goal is to make themselves obsolete. The same thing can be said about a flight instructor.
I got bad news for you though. I am going to be the greatest pilot of all time, so you can be number 2 I guess.
Regardless, in order to be a great pilot, you have to follow your checklists to ensure a safe flight. It can get a bit redundant, but each takeoff, flight, and landing will be different. That is a fact.
So, follow your checklists and ensure that you are the best.
Always remember that my goal is two-fold: I want to be the best writer and the best pilot. If you follow along here, you also should remember we don’t want to be good; we don’t want to be great; in anything we do, we want to be the best.