Proper Use of CHECKLISTS = Safety & Professionalism

Published in Midwest Flyer – October/November 2018

The results of a study by K. M. Megha, and E.E. Bowen of Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, Prescott, found that approximately “…70% of all approach and landing accidents were caused by omission of checklists, either partially or completely.”*  70%! That begs the questions, what is causing that to happen? Are we in too much of a rush to get to that $100 hamburger? Are we too distracted by the “gee whiz” technology and capabilities of our glass cockpits? Are we just getting lazy, or worse yet, complacent?

Unless things have changed drastically over the years, flight instructors (CFIs) would pound into the student’s brain the facts that preflight checks and the correct and consistent use of checklists was critically important to having a safe flight. The CFI would also remind the students many times that as the pilot-in-command, they are 100% totally responsible for assuring their aircraft is fit for flight, including having the correct paperwork that belongs in the aircraft. They would also drill into the student pilot’s head that consistent use of checklists helps to make your passengers comfortable (once you were legally able to carry folks with you). It also demonstrated your dedication to safety. That is one more fact that helped your passengers enjoy their flight.

You want your passengers to walk away having had a fun and positive experience. You want to leave them with a great impression of aviation, right? So why would you rush through a checklist, or worse yet, do your checks from memory knowing that items could be missed or accidentally skipped?

Obviously a safe and conscientious pilot with a “professional aviator” attitude would not do those things. No aviator wants to bend metal or worse yet, cause the demise of a passenger or himself. But failure to use your checklists properly and completely can quickly set up multiple weak links in a chain of causation that leads to disaster.

Start every flight by using your checklists as appropriate to the stage of preparation or flight. Doing this every time will become a smoother process as you build your flow (and “muscle memory”). If something legitimately distracts you and an item is missed, you will very likely feel the difference. Then you can return to the last known item checked and proceed forward from there, or restart that part of the checklist from the beginning.

When you consistently use your checklists correctly from walk-around before flight, to walk-around post flight every time you fly, it will become a part of you and your professional aviator habits. Then skipping them or rushing through them will feel unnatural and incorrect.

FAA AC120-71B Ch. 5 Para 5.1 states, “Checklists are of no value if the flight crew is not committed to their use. Without discipline and dedication to using checklists at the appropriate times, errors will inevitably occur.” It further states, “The checklist is an aid to the memory and helps to ensure that critical items necessary for the safe operation of aircraft are not overlooked or forgotten.”

Please always use your checklists. It is for your safety, and the safety of your passengers, but also for the safety of those below your flight path, and those with whom you share the sky.


Electronic Checklist Implementation: Transition Training and General Aviation (GA) Usage

Megha, K. M. & Bowen, E. E., Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, Prescott.

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