I’ve mentioned the substantial number of items on the G-IV checklist in use at Simuflite. Just a few short days ago, it took about 90 minutes to run through the Cockpit Preflight, APU Start, Before Start, and Starting Engines checklists.
Not surprising at all since I’m new to the plane. It’s a complicated beast, and half the battle is just figuring out where everything’s located. And doing it in a pitch-black cockpit with a handheld flashlight, because they have you enter the simulator the same way you would in the real world: with it cold and dark. Even so, those lists contain a total of 153 items and it’s just a lot to wade through.
Today we managed to do it all in 15 minutes flat.
That might sound like a major victory — and it is — but it’s still a long time when compared with the 5 minutes it would take me to do the same thing in a simpler aircraft like a King Air.
Obviously speed is not our number one priority. In fact, it’s not important at all. We can take as much time as is required to accomplish most tasks on the day of the checkride. Slower is often better, especially when dealing with abnormal situations like engine failures. There’s a concept called “winding the clock”, which means stepping back for a moment and analyzing what you see before reaching out to flip a switch or turn a knob. Improper response to an emergent situation can easily make things worse. As physicians are fond of quoting, “First, do no harm”.
The problem is that our training time in the simulator is extremely limited. We’ve got 8 four-hour sessions in which to prepare for the checkride, and half that time I’ll be spending in the right (copilot) seat while my sim partner preps for his own flight test. It’s still valuable experience for me, but the bottom line is that when I take my test, I’ll be flying from the left (captain) seat. So the more efficiently we can get through all the checklists, tests, and procedures, the more time we can spend in the proverbial air practicing.
The bulk of the improvement came from memorizing the “functional checks” and APU start procedure. We also gained time by crossing out items on the checklist for equipment which is not present in the simulator, and changing the phraseology slightly on some things to make them easier to comprehend. For example, the words “standby” and “electrical” are used quite frequently on the checklists. When you combine them, it refers to the Standby Electrical Panel, used to control a hydraulic motor which can provide electrical juice in the event the main power sources fail in flight. Still, it was creating confusion for my sim partner, because he’s always referred to it by the colloquial name “ABEX”. So we eliminated the perplexity by referring to it that way on the checklists.
Crew coordination has also taken a big bite out of our checklist run times. Checklists are typically run in a “challenge/response” format. This means that the Pilot Not Flying (PNF) will read an item (or challenge), for example, “Anti-Ice Heaters”, and the Pilot Flying (PF) will respond with whatever the checklist demands, in this case “6 Set”.
Of course, this system only works if the guy flying knows what the response should be. At this point, even though my sim partner is not new to the Gulfstream IV, he is new to these checklists. So we are doing the checklists in a “challenge/response/response” format. The PNF will read the challenge and the response, and the PF will repeat the response as he touches the item in question.
Unless you’re a pilot, this is probably more detail than you care to digest. But it’s just those little things which make the cockpit — and therefore the flight — run smoothly, efficiently, and most of all, safely.
I’ll leave you with a brief YouTube video clip of a crew performing their first takeoff in a Gulfstream IV simulator. You will hear some of the call-outs from the PNF, as well as the instructor talking them through it.