EMS Tips

Remain Calm, We Have a Check List: Part 1

I have been on enough regional jet take-offs to know that leveling off just a few thousand feet off the ground just after take-off is not the way things usually work. We had taken off moments from the Detroit airport for a southern destination. As I began to puzzle our low altitude the plane turned left towards Windsor. Then another left turn and we were heading north.

“This is odd,” I thought.

Gear down

“This is your captain speaking.”

The pilot came on the intercom and told us, “Our landing gear would not retract after take-off. We have run through our checklists for this situation and the gear still won’t come up so we are going back to Detroit.”

It could be worse

The landing gear not coming up is the better of the two problems to have. I would much rather be on a plane with the gear stuck in the down position than the gear stuck in the up position. How about you?

Starting my own checklist

After the pilot’s second mention of a checklist I began work on my own checklist. Bum landing gear might not be the only problem with this plane and I wanted to have a solid evacuation plan. This was my checklist:

1. Seatbelt firmly tightened – check

2. Carry-on baggage stowed under the seat in front of me – check

3. Shoes tied – check

4. Count number of rows to exit in front of me – check

5. Count number of rows to exit behind me – check

6. Passengers near me that might need assistance, mother with two children – check

7. Find the emergency floor lighting – check

8. Visualize crawling through a smoke-filled cockpit while counting the rows I pass – check

9. Smartphone in my pocket to send reassuring message to wife, if needed – check

10. Remain calm because you have a checklist

Smooth Landing

After finishing our low elevation loop around Windsor we made a smooth landing in Detroit. The gear did not fail and once at the gate we all calmly exited through the jet bridge.

Checklists for all Occasions

Do you  use checklists as an EMS professional during patient care incidents? In reviews of airplane emergencies I routinely have heard pilots say “We followed our checklist to stay focused on the most important tasks. The checklist saved lives.”

In my next post I will identify the difference between a protocol and a checklist, as well as some situations well suited for a checklist.

Meanwhile you might enjoy this video clip of Atul Gwande, author of the [amazon-product text=”Checklist Manifesto” type=”text”]0312430000[/amazon-product] on the Daily Show.

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart Mon – Thurs 11p / 10c
Atul Gawande
Daily Show Full Episodes Political Humor & Satire Blog</a> The Daily Show on Facebook

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By Greg Friese

Greg Friese, Stevens Point, Wisconsin, is an author, educator, paramedic, and marathon runner.

Greg was the co-host of the award winning EMSEduCast podcast, the only podcast by and for EMS educators. Greg has written for,, Wilderness Medical Associates, JEMS Magazine, and EMS World Magazine, and the NAEMSE Educator Newsletter.