Every Airplane Requires a Checkout
Flying|December 2021
Embrace the challenge of mastering a new machine.
JOHN ZIMMERMAN

A pilot I know occasionally tells the story of his brief checkout in a Piper Navajo to illustrate how far aviation training has come. This flight occurred during the prehistoric era of general aviation—the early 1980s—when transitioning to a new airplane often meant nothing more than grabbing the keys and reading the POH during the run-up. The pilot wanted more than that, so he went flying with the Navajo’s owner. After a normal takeoff and a left turn to enter downwind, the owner pulled back the mixture on the right engine, shutting it down completely. His plan was simple: If you can land it, you’re checked out.

It’s a great story, but for all the appeal of “the good old days,” this is a terrible way to handle checkouts. New airplanes often mean more- complicated systems, new procedures and unique flying characteristics, most of which should not be imparted at 150 knots. Both the FAA and insurance companies have learned this lesson to some extent,and now typically require some type of formal training when stepping up to a high-performance or complex airplane. The accident statistics suggest we’re doing better today: The general aviation accident rate was more than 10 per 100,000 hours in the late ’70s and early ’80s, compared to fewer than 5 per 100,000 hours today.

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