May 13, 2021
By G. Alan Hepburn
One of the features that has become available on a number of tablet-based flight planning tools is electronic checklists. These are available on Foreflight, Garmin Pilot and fltplan.com’s GO app. Look for my feature article on fltplan.com’s GO app in the June issue of COPA Flight, as this is the tool I use, mainly because the price is right. The others can no doubt be set up similarly, and perhaps some of the same suggestions apply.
All three of these applications have the ability to speak the checklists. This is useful only if you have a Bluetooth headset so that you can hear the results over the engine noise. As delivered, each item is broken into a challenge and response. After the response, you touch “Done”, and it moves on to the next item. You can have a checklist for each phase of the flight, such as “Prestart”, “Engine Start”, etc.
With fltplan.com’s checklists, you enter and sort the lists on the website, then download them to the app to use them. I found that, in a single pilot situation, if every little item is presented as a separate challenge and response, you have to keep going back to the iPad to click “Done” far too frequently, which becomes quite distracting, so I have tried to group several related items together.
For example, my Post-start Checklist, one item of which is shown above, looks like:
Trims: Pitch forward end of zero, rudder half a point right, aileron neutral
Switches: Avionics and EFIS on, autopilot to TEST
Select COM 1 Monitor eh tis, set VHF COM frequency
Auto pilot: Self test complete, select ON, ready light green, Stab working, Level set neutral, push OFF
iPad: Linked to transponder, enroute and approach charts loaded, USB connected
Altimeters: PFD and steam gauge set
Flight Plan: Copy Clearance
GPS: Enter flight plan, check route on map, set CDI to GPS, set GPS2 to terrain
Transponder: Enter code and flight ID
Trims: Pitch to forward end of zero, rudder half a point right, aileron neutral
RUNUP Next checklist.
As you complete each item, you click “Done”, and it presents the next one. The last item tells you that you are at the end of the present list, at which point you click the “Next Checklist” arrow at the top right hand corner. Otherwise you tend to click “Done” and get a “Notice You have completed your current checklist” warning, which isn’t spoken, so you have to look at the iPad to see why it went quiet.
The “Current Status” display shows you the items on the current checklist that you have already completed.
Another point: it tends not to pronounce things like “ATIS” the way you might want it to. That’s why it is spelled “eh tis” in the third item.
It may take a number of iterations before you get this right, but in the end, you will have something close to the two-pilot verbal challenge and response system.
(Photo: G. Alan Hepburn)