A few weeks ago a Cessna 182 pilot suffered an engine stoppage after takeoff. They don’t run well without fuel and the fuel selector was set to the ‘off’ position. This is one of those killer items on the before takeoff check and this pilot had a momentary lapse.
How could such an event happen? Easy! The aircraft had been in maintenance and the technician personally told the pilot that the selector was off. It was the pilot’s personal aircraft and he always left the selector on “both.” In running the checklist by rote the check wasn’t actually made and there was just enough fuel in the lines to get up to about 300 agl before the quiet began.
The happier ending was that the pilot had just installed a parachute on the Cessna and had the presence of mind to pull. Amazingly, it was enough to break most of the fall, even at such a low altitude, and the pilot came out with little or no injury. He also had the integrity to admit his lapse. Well done, sir, on several counts!
Now all of us are much too smart, disciplined, experienced (fill in the self-congratulatory adjective of choice) to make such a mistake but if you have a “friend” who might be so prone, just a few things to consider. Really verify the killer items and allow no distractions. It’s much easier said than done and use sticky notes as reminders on stuff that might get forgotten, especially after maintenance. They’re quite handy for IFR reminders as well.
Rental and club aircraft are filled with all kinds of traps and most pilots are pretty careful to check those things. It’s much easier if you’re the only one flying a particular aircraft to take things for granted.
If someone else has a nifty technique for preventing our humanity from getting in the way of safe flight, please share it.