I was talking with a flight instructor the other day who related a funny story that provides a lesson for all of us. During a flight review with a private pilot, the instructor created a simulated emergency by saying: “Okay, you’re flying along and suddenly you realize the engine is on fire. What are you going to do?”
The pilot in the left seat just looked at the instructor as he pondered this predicament. Then he did what he was thought was the right answer -- in his case, it was the only answer that made any sense. He engaged the autopilot, fished around in the back seat for the Pilot’s Operating Handbook and began flipping through the pages looking for the emergency procedures section and the checklist titled “Engine Fire - In Flight.”
The pilot’s instinct to refer to the POH was correct, but let’s face it, he was doing it at the wrong time. The emergency procedures in your airplane should be committed to memory, and that means reading the POH long before you ever get behind the controls.
You don’t need to remember every word, but you should be familiar with the basics and know the really important numbers and procedures by rote. If you haven’t dusted off your POH in a while, do yourself a favor and take some time to give it a read.