Maniacal Mnemonics
Flying|September 2020
Learning the pilot’s favorite crutch
MARTHA LUNKEN

OK, picture some far-in-the-future archaeologist exploring an area that ancient maps call North America and stumbling on an odd-looking site—long strips of concrete radiating out from a once-paved, open area. Combing through the ruins of a nearby structure, he unearths a barely discernible, crumbling document covered with peculiar characters. If only there were accompanying hieroglyphics, this could be a Rosetta stone—the key to deciphering the language of a long-extinct, strange culture.

CIGARS-LCA-BLITTS-FLARE- GUMPS-CLIFF-MPG-CCCC- FACTS-FLARE-MIDGET-TTTT- WIRETAP-APTATEN-HAMSACC- AAAAA-PARE-CRAGS-PAVE- DECIDE-OODA-IMAIR-PAST- SMACFM-ALARMS-TOMATO- FLAMES-NDRUMS-TITS-AVEF- MSHITTT-CEFLAGGS-GAARF- CIA-CRAFT-CAAAMRF-DVA- BUMPFH-FMUBPS-ABCDE- FMOST-FIST-DNSCRAM-TEST- BOAT-TSAFE-AWARE-ROVA- DROVV-ONCAL-TTMPPFFISCH- PUFF-PRWAMCN-IREX-FMQDC- MARRRTHA-FMUTBSL- CLEAR OFF-FMQD-MAX SAYS WINTER FLYING GIVES ME A BACKACHE-PARK OFF PIGS- 30-FOOT DUCKS-TRUE VIRGINS MAKE DULL COMPANIONS-CAN DEAD MEN VOTE TWICE-EAST IS LEAST, WEST IS BEST.

Any of these sound familiar? Well, if you’re having trouble reading them, try researching and collecting 57 (and counting) mnemonics that pilots have devised as memory aids to replace or augment printed (and electronic) checklists.

Mnemonics are devices or patterns of letters we use to assist in remembering something, such as “CIGARS,” “WIRETAP” and “PAVE,” which cleverly form a kind of phony word that’s easily remembered. “GUMP- SCLIFF,” “FMUBS” or “BUMPFH” aren’t words; you can’t say them—at least, I can’t without slobbering all over myself—but they’re still mnemonics, with each letter representing another word or phrase.

In my opinion, if you’re memorizing “TTMPPFFISCH,” or worse, “The Man From IHC,” to use as before takeoff checklists, you might look for another instructor.

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