Aviatrix has a great posting on the pointless mnemonics we learn during flight training, such as GUMPS (Gas, Undercarriage, Mixture, Props, Switches) for last-second pre-landing checks and CCCC (Cram levers forward, Carb Heat [or Cowl Flaps], Climb, Call ATC) for an overshoot (go-around, for our American cousins).
I have a strong feeling that these so-called mnemonics (which don’t usually help you remember anything, as Aviatrix pointed out) come originally from the military, where people have to memorize lots of procedures for their own sake, whether they were practical or not. When the goal is to remember the exact words of the procedure rather than learn the procedure itself, the mnemonics might work.
Do they actually help us fly, though? During training, I did find occasionally find that phrases were useful, like “time-turn-throttle-talk” at transitions in an instrument approach, or “aviate-navigate-communicate” when I found myself a bit behind the plane, but memorizing these as TTTT or ANC would not have done me any good. I don’t consciously use either of these any more, though, just as I don’t actually have to count two steamboats to make sure that I have a safe following distance on the highway.
I can remember some mnemonics that never helped at all, like AMORT for an approach — I think it was “approach [right one?]-minima-overshoot-radios-timings”, but if I spent too much time trying to figure it out, I’d probably blow through the localizer or fly the plane into the ground, so I’ve pushed that one from my memory. In real life, as opposed to IFR training, you have lots of time to set up your approach anyway — you’re probably starting to fiddle with the radios 50 miles out, trying to see if you can pick up a hint of the localizer yet, just because you’re bored. You read the approach plate over and over again like a cereal box on the breakfast table, because there’s not much else to do but look at the white outside the windows, scan the gauges, and listen to the airline pilots messing up their clearances on the radio (“XXX flight 000, please confirm you want direct Sudbury; your flight plan shows that your destination is North Bay”; “Umm, yeeeeah, thanks Ottawa terminal — request North Bay, please”).