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Anon wrote:As the O.P...To add some detail which, understandably some have a asked for, it was a low wing aircraft, grass runway and taxiways.

Thanks for coming back with this.
I have decided not to pack it in at this stage

but will not be flying again until I’ve had time to fully come to terms with what went wrong, and I’m no longer being deprived of sleep due to thought about what could have happened had one of these things detached in flight. I accept that there is a possibility this was more than just a momentary lapse in concentration and I need to assess this properly as it’s possible other things could be missed.

Fair point. Don't leave it too long though.

my assessment at this moment is that my normally very rigid pre-flight check routine was not adhered to, why is the real question for me to answer, I was on my own, there was no-one else around so I can’t say I was distracted. I am however determined that I will never allow anything to interrupt a routine that has served me well for many many years.

Ok, I think this is a mistake. It is impossible to make such a determination. You've had a rigid routine for years, and yet it broke. With the best will in the world (which you obviously have), you just cannot "make up your mind" to not make a mistake.

I think you should carefully analyse your routine and change it to add in some fail safes. Additional checks, maybe, a final walk round as other have suggested, or do the whole thing in reverse after you've done it in the normal order. Maybe you'll discover some other things you're prone to missing when you look at it all in a different way.

Or (shock horror), try without a checklist, but work your way round the aeroplane, checking and touching every bit that you can see. A proper checklist should be in a logical order as you walk round, so it should be straightforward to do everything in the same order.

I stopped using a checklist for the external checks a long time ago - it's quicker, I'm no less thorough, and I find it easier to see as well as look that way.

Try it - you might like it. You can always pre-flight with the list after you've done it without.

And without it, you have to think more - no bad thing. Also, without it, maybe you'll find some things that aren't on the checklist, that you should still check. I've added two external items and one internal item to my checklists this way.

So please in this instance believe me when I say there was nothing untoward noticed at the time. Indeed a later thorough inspection of the taxi route and take off zone on the runway showed no signs of anything either. If you don’t believe me

I completely believe this. I think believing that the difference in handling would necessarily be noticeable is to have a false sense of security.

let’s hope that this event has at least served to remind all of the need to avoid complacency.

Hear hear. As @A4 Pacific said, I think you've done us all a service in posting.

If you get any further with your self-evaluation, especially if you can analyse why the lapse happened, why not write up a CHIRP report? It's anonymous, and quite cathartic, as you're giving something back to a wider audience. If you don't read the CHIRP reports, you should!