Good habit patterns are the best indications of a good pilot. It’s easy to get lazy when flying non-complex airplanes that don’t require a lot of action on the behalf of the pilot. But if you don’t continue practicing your ingrained habits while flying airplanes that are “easy” to fly, you’ll be sorry once you set foot in a more complex model.
There is a silly aviation saying that there are those pilots who have landed gear up and those who will. And while some gear up landings occur when landing gear deployment systems fail, you can avoid becoming one of many embarrassed pilots who simply forgot to lower the gear. All you need to do is to practice the good old GLUMPS check. If you have not heard of GLUMPS, it’s short for gas, lights, undercarriage, mixture, prop and seatbelts.
Unfortunately, GLUMPS lacks a couple of important steps, so you should add those to the list. These items are boost pump, carb heat and cowl flaps, and perhaps there are additional items in your airplane that require attention before you touch the ground. The only problem is that there is a serious lack of vowels in the list and it’s hard to create a good mnemonic to help you remember what to do.
My instructor taught me to use BCCGLUMPS. While this is a sad excuse for a mnemonic, it did somehow stick. And while there have been times in my flying career when I’ve become complacent, I strongly believe that being in the habit of running through my pre-landing checklist at least three times before returning to mother earth – once while approaching the pattern, once on downwind or at the final approach fix and once on short final (though this one can possibly be reduced to gear and propeller) - will keep me from becoming a statistic nobody wants to become.
But make sure that you think and take the appropriate action before moving on to the next item on your checklist. Let’s review:
Boost Pump – On/Off. Whether the boost pump should be on or off depends on the airplane you fly. Refer to the POH.
Carb Heat – On. Generally, if the airplane is not fuel injected, you should turn the carb heat on at lower power settings to prevent carb ice. Carburetor ice can form at much higher temperatures than you may expect, particularly if there is a lot of moisture in the air. Consult the POH to make sure you’re doing what’s right for the airplane you fly.
Cowl Flaps – Open/Closed. Generally your cowl flaps should be closed during lower power settings, but if it’s really warm outside you may want to leave them open. The POH will guide you, once again.
Gas – On the Fullest Tank. If your airplane is equipped with more than one fuel tank, you should make sure that the tank you have selected has plenty of fuel for a potential go around.
Lights – On. The airport environment is the busiest area that you will fly through during any flight, so turn your landing lights on to help others see and avoid you.
Undercarriage – Down and Locked. Most airplanes with retractable landing gear have one green light for each landing gear leg. But the landing gear indication system varies from airplane to airplane. Regardless, use every tool you have to ensure that your gear is locked in the down position. External mirrors are a great source of comfort too, so check them each time, if available.
Mixture – Set. Many instructors teach mixture – rich. But this could get you in deep trouble at higher elevation airports where an excessively rich mixture could cause the engine to quit at an inopportune moment. Set your mixture appropriately.
Prop – Set. This only applies to airplanes equipped with a constant speed propeller, but it is a critical step because it reminds you to bring the propeller control full forward to provide maximum RPMs in case of a go-around.
Seatbelts – Secure. This step is self explanatory, but it’s worth giving your seatbelt a good tug to make sure it truly is secure. And remind your passengers to do the same.