Aircraft Checklists


The importance of learning to use and using checklists.

One element of inital flight training that new pilots often rebel against is the use of checklists.  Over and over I hear brand new students pilots ask the same questions.  Why do I need to use a checklist, why not just memorize the items and operate the aircraft without the checklist.

To a certain extent this attitude makes sense.  After all, in what other area of our everyday lives do we use checklists?

I usually explain checklist use by telling pilots that the point of using checklists as a student pilot is is to form a habit pattern that will hopefully stay with them for the rest of their flying days.

Why is that important?  Well, student pilots don’t stay student pilots for long.  Some become private, commercial, ATP, and multi-engine pilots.  Most will transition out of the 172.  While it may seem meaningles to have an in range checklist on a 172, it’s not on a 737.

By drilling the use of checklists into student pilots, we form habits that aid them in later endeavors.  Whether the student is transitioning to larger more complex aircraft, flying unfamiliar aircraft, or dealing with an emergency or unusual situation, the response will be the same – turn to the checklist.

Besides the simple directive of "use the checklist," the pilot also needs to be taught just how to use the checklist to make it as useful a tool as possible.  For example, when I train private pilots I usually tell them to use a flow pattern and then recheck their work using the checklist.  If there are two pilots then a PF/PNF challenge/reaponse structure is excellent practice to prepare them for airlines, corporate flying, and CRM concepts.

My final thought… students need to also be taught to challenge the contents of checklists.  As we’ve all seen there are many after-market checklists.  Often these checklists are missing items, have incorrect order, or bad parameters.  Sometimes the best practice is to consult several checklists and compile your own.  Just today I was instructing in a 182.  The checklist was missing any form of check for the fuel tank selector.  Go figure?