CANOPY CLOSED AND LOCKED is an item on each and every cockpit

checklist.  Yet all too often a pilot takes off with the canopy closed

but not locked.  How does this happen and how can we help prevent it? 

It happens for a variety of reasons.  The pilot closes the canopy but

interrupts the continuation of the "and locked" sequence.  He/she does

this for what at the time makes all the sense in the world.  For

instance, it's windy and he/she does not want it to blow shut so it's

closed before the checklist even starts.  Or the tow plane's prop

blast starts to hit you and/or your passenger so the pilot quickly

closes the canopy(s). Or it is cold and the pilot closes the canopy as

soon as he/she gets into the plane.  Or it's hot and the pilot reopens

the canopy for some fresh air only to then close it in a rush.  In

each case this is out of sequence in the checklist.  Now comes the

checklist.  When the pilot gets to "canopy closed and locked" he/she

notices it is already closed and assumes it is also locked and moves

to the next item on the checklist.  

I have never seen a student close and not lock the canopy when the two

steps are performed at the right time during the checklist.  However,

many times I have watched a student close the canopy beforehand and

then not lock it when it comes up on the checklist.  The solution is

not to tell the pilot never to close the canopy beforehand.  Rather, a

more proactive preventative solution is needed.  It is a two step

solution.  One is to try to get the pilot to always lock the canopy

whenever it is closed-even if it is done so out of sequence.  The

second, and more important step that must be done to help prevent the

unlocked canopy on takeoff is to add the phrase "AND VERIFIED" to the

'CANOPY CLOSED AND LOCKED" checklist item.  That is, the new revised

checklist item should be: CANOPY CLOSED, LOCKED, AND VERIFIED.  

Now even if the canopy is closed before the checklist begins there is

something for the pilot to do when he/she gets to the checklist item

"CANOPY CLOSED, LOCKED AND VERIFIED".  Namely the pilot must verify

that the canopy is locked.  This is done by pushing up on the FRAME of

the canopy, NOT THE GLASS.  Also, the pilot needs to understand that

he/she is not trying to rip the frame from the sailplane with 200

pounds per square inch of pressure.  Rather, a gentle push equal to

the amount required to open the canopy when it is unlocked is all that

is needed.  It also needs to be noted that the PIC is responsible for

each canopy closed, locked and verified, not just his/her own.

Nothing we do can totally prevent a pilot from skipping a checklist

item.  There is a saying that sums up human nature.  Make it idiot

proof and someone will invent a better idiot.  However, we can try to

improve both our training of the student and the checklist to help the

pilot be certain that the canopy is indeed locked.


Fly Safely (and with your canopy closed and locked),

Frank Reid