Slop Chit Syndrome

Slop chits are so handy. I for one can’t do without them. This serendipitous discovery by American company 3M, is matchless in its capability to draw attention or hold temporary information. Discovered quite by accident in 1968, 3M’s scientist Dr. Spencer Silver was attempting to develop a super-strong adhesive when he chanced upon this “solution without a problem”. These humble shreds of paper have withstood the onslaught of smartphones and tablets with remarkable resilience. Why, over a period of time they have even evolved into fashionable, multi-coloured POST-ITs. Imagine how drab those browned out, dusty files in our offices would look without the festive gaiety of slop chits of various hues. In fact, I often wondered if there is a direct correlation between the number of multi-coloured slop chits that stick out from the sides of a file and the file’s final destination. But that’s the subject matter of another investigation.

Pleased as I am with these pieces of paper, of late, there seems to be an undesirable proliferation of slop chits into the domain of flying units. And this is where i see a problem looming.

Consider this. Aircraft taxies into dispersal after a sortie. Crew switch off the aircraft, complete their walk around and dab the sweat off their brows. Ground crew are eager to know “all OK?”. After a brief discussion on dispersal, crew sign off the documents and move to the Flight Commander’s office. Some more discussion ensues. And out comes the smart young pilot with a slop chit to be handed over to the technicians. What’s the matter? Thoda (a little, in Hindi) oil leak, rudder thoda stiff, power index thoda out. Yes, that’s right. Our crew has just returned with defects on the aircraft and endorsed a fully serviceable aircraft on the documents. Why bother with entry shentry? The slop chit will convey the same message, right?

Wrong. We have just lost a rudimentary system to monitor health history of the aircraft. In the absence of health and usage monitoring systems (HUMS), the closest estimate of aircraft’s health is the record of entries in technical log. If all defects, even seemingly minor ones, are entered and work done to liquidate the defect documented, over a period of time, the tech log will speak the aircraft’s story. Finally, in the event of an unfortunate accident this document could provide valuable leads to investigators. Contrast this with the slop chit that almost always finds its way to the trash bin.

It is not my case that defects are not attended or that we are flying unserviceable aircraft. Rather, it’s the pathological reluctance to document observations on aircraft serviceability.

Why this caginess in logging observations where they belong, even if they seem minor? Let us put ourselves into the shoes of a Squadron CO or ‘Management’ struggling to meet the mounting requirements with depleting assets. I can think of some possible excuses for this ‘slop chit syndrome’

1. Entering the defect would render aircraft unserviceable, thereby requiring corresponding man-hours / work done to be factored into the documents (this ‘trouble’ is often avoided by addressing the defect without documentation).

2. A tight rope we walk each day called ‘Daily State’ may get upset, raising eyebrows and inviting probing questions from higher ups.

3. Spare is not available in frontline or stores, therefore increasing down time if defect is logged.

4. Technical manager feels it can be handled in the next scheduled inspection.

5. “I am keeping a mental log of all defects and will address them at the appropriate time” (mental slop chit?).

6. A tendency to take ownership of the defect i.e perceiving something personal in the way aircraft is flown or maintained.

7. Maybe it is not a defect at all? Too many doubting thomases out there.

Sadly, all the above pretexts only reflect a compulsion to put away the inevitable. Needless to state, none of the above justifications would stand scrutiny in the unfortunate event of an accident. But therein lies the treachery of slop chit system. Little, if any, record would exist of the train of small defects that have been addressed during the aircraft’s exploitation. So no questions asked. When the aircraft pulls in for next inspection, an abnormally long list of defects would suddenly crop up for redressal. Again, slop chits can be called in for balancing out, with only ‘discussed’ defects finding their way into the snag sheet. The aircraft is speaking its story, but no one’s listening.

Once a person is qualified as Captain of any aircraft, shouldn’t there be enough faith reposed in the individual to discern whether a defect exists or not? Does it need to be the subject matter of a debate or discussion, except if we are discussing the possible cause and remedies? There are not enough ‘Apps’ on our older vintage aircraft for giving quantitative data on aircraft health. That’s more reason for us to be on alert for any signs of potential unserviceability. One wonders if slop chits or ‘dekh lena, kar lena’ (verbal treatment) can ever be a remedy for this.

So the next time you feel brakes were sluggish or the pedal was buzzing, walk right up to the line table and log it in. You would have saved a slop chit….and who knows, someone’s life too.

Disclaimer: Views are personal. Issues raised do not pertain to any particular unit or company and are only meant to encourage healthy debate with overall impetus on improving flight safety and promoting best practices.
Image courtesy:


©KP Sanjeev Kumar, 2016. All rights reserved. I can be reached at Views are personal.

8 thoughts on “Slop Chit Syndrome

  1. Likely hood of catastrophic event is most probably NONE. That’s what s92/ec225 Crew didn’t agree when MGB failed.

  2. Thanks for any other fantastic article. The place else could anyone get that kind of information in such an ideal approach of writing? I’ve a presentation next week, and I am at the look for such information.

  3. Its like you read my mind! You seem to know so much about this, like you wrote the book in it or something. I think that you can do with some pics to drive the message home a bit, but instead of that, this is magnificent blog. An excellent read. I’ll certainly be back.
    zapatillas trail salomon [url=]zapatillas trail salomon[/url]

  4. The paper trail of failures is an invaluable tool and it should be encouraged. On the other hand, I understand the financial aspects of taking an aircraft offline 20 hours prior to the next scheduled inspection… where in most folks eyes, both in and outside of mx, it could have waited, short of the regulatory aspects.

    Beyond the obvious case where in something which appeared non-mission critical actually was, a big danger is that human memory is iffy at best. Inspections, unless you know exactly what to look for have pretty low probabilities of detecting every failure / potential failure down the road… Thus a mx guy lacking a log entry, slop chit, or even verbal passing of the squak might well miss it… until it does become a mission critical failure.

    There has to be a better way

  5. Sir, thank you for the article.
    The practice of verbal snags and the idea of keeping a verbal snag register to find a mid way between the two things (logging snag officially vs verbal snag); both should be done away with. The traditional way to have HUMS is what we are forsaking in this bargain. The crew should never be asked the reason for logging a snag. Else, he shouldn’t be cleared for flying.
    Sir, i think still we will go for a easier wrong than the harder right.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.