Dash II Oil
BEFORE DESCENT FROM CRUISE
• Check weather conditions (ATIS, ASOS/AWOS, Pireps).
• Verify runway/approach.
• Check for terrain and obstacles.
• Verify groundspeed and plan the descent.
• Set radios for arrival.
• Complete your cruise descent checklist.
WITHIN 10 MILES • Start developing mental traffic picture. • Configure aircraft for approach (flaps, gear, speed). • For IFR approach: verify minimums, timing, and missed approach procedure. • Complete approach/landing checklist.
ENTERING PATTERN/AIRPORT TRAFFIC AREA
• Verify pre-landing checklist is complete.
• Verify wind/runway.
• Make necessary radio calls.
• Maintain mental traffic picture.
One technique for remembering the
checklist is to always use it before touching
the throttle. Before reducing power, get the
descent checklist out and complete all the
items. While the descent checklist might be
simple, some important additions can help
keep us out of trouble. A descent or pre-approach checklist for IFR flight often
includes checking the weather, setting up
the radios with the proper frequencies, and
setting the altimeter to the local setting for
the destination airport.
Plenty of accidents occur when pilots
forget to complete their pre-landing checklist. Distractions abound during the
approach phase of the flight, including radio
calls and traffic avoidance. I’m a firm
believer in the “three strikes” approach to
pre-landing checklists, which means I give
myself three chances to get it right. The first
shot at the pre-landing checklist comes
before entering the airport traffic pattern.
This is an opportunity to make certain anything that can or should be done gets done. I
like to review the checklist again once in the
pattern (preferably on downwind) to make
certain all items have been completed. Just
in case there were any distractions earlier
that could have fouled up my checklist, I use
a GUMP (gas, undercarriage, mixture, prop)
or MPG (mixture, prop, green light) check
on final—just to make certain I don’t end up
on the evening news.
USE FLIGHT FOLLOWING
No discussion of descent planning is complete without mentioning the importance of
resource management, and one of the best
resources for a VFR approach is radar service in the form of flight following. Even at
busy terminal areas, most controllers would
rather communicate with an aircraft than
guess what it’s doing and try to keep IFR
traffic away from it. In addition to assistance
in identifying traffic, air traffic control can
provide us directly or indirectly with valuable information. By listening to what’s
happening with aircraft ahead, we’ll have a
better idea of what to expect.
Descent planning isn’t exactly rocket
science, but there are plenty of considerations that can make our descents and
approaches easier and safer. By planning
our descents carefully and thoroughly, we
improve the chances for an uneventful
arrival at our destination.
Robert N. Rossier, EAA 472091, has been flying for more
than 30 years and has worked as a flight instructor, commercial pilot, chief pilot, and FAA flight check airman.