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  • January 19, 2024 5 min read

    Today, we'll talk about why a  Pilot checklist is important. New pilots learn more than just flying. They do navigation, log flight hours, attend ground training, and follow flight checklists.

    Most pilots use written checklists, but some don't if they feel experienced or busy. It's risky to be too confident. Even if you think through a checklist mentally during takeoff and landing, saying it out loud and checking a written list is smart to avoid missing anything important.

    What Is a Flight Checklist?

    Boeing made the first  Pre-flight checklist in 1935 after a prototype crash. Pilots forgot to release gust locks before takeoff, causing a fatal accident. This incident led to the creation of a formal list of steps for preflight checks.

    A pilot's preflight checklist is a printed or digital list of tasks for the pilot or flight crew to complete before takeoff. Even though these checklists are tailored to a particular aircraft, they include the same steps and safety checks to guarantee the aircraft is prepared for flight.

    What Is Included in a Preflight Pilot Checklist?

    The pilot in charge of the aircraft must go through the checklist. If there's a co-pilot, they might share the responsibilities. The Preflight  Pilot checklist usually has different sections, covering tasks before starting the engine, during engine startup, and while getting ready to taxi but before taking off. Here's how it works-

    Before Starting the Engine

    1. Conduct an external walk-around and visually inspect the aircraft. Check flaps, tires, and hatches for any issues.
    2. Adjust seats and ensure they are securely locked in position.
    3. Fasten seat belts and shoulder harnesses.
    4. Turn on the fuel shutoff valve and check the fuel gauges.
    5. Ensure radios and electrical equipment are switched off.
    6. Test the brakes and double-check that they are engaged.
    7. Complete any additional steps in the cockpit check.

    To Start the Engine

    1. Push circuit breakers in (or flip them on in some aircraft).
    2. Turn on the fuel valve.
    3. Set the fuel mixture to rich.
    4. Check that the carburetor's heat level is cold.
    5. Prime the engine with up to three strokes.
    6. Open the throttle to ½ inch.
    7. Turn on the master switch and beacon.
    8. Check the propeller area and audibly shout "clear" to warn anyone nearby.
    9. Press the ignition switch to start, and the engine should start.
    10. Adjust RPM using the throttle to 1000 or less.
    11. Lean the fuel mixture by one inch for taxiing.
    12. Adjust the flaps up.
    13. Turn on the radios.
    14. Set the transponder to standby.

    Prior to Takeoff

    1. Confirm the brakes are engaged.
    2. Verify proper latching of cabin doors.
    3. Test the flight controls for free and correct movement.
    4. Adjust and set the elevator trim to the takeoff position.
    5. Verify the functionality of running and landing lights.
    6. Maintain a rich fuel mixture for takeoff below 3000 feet elevation.
    7. Gradually advance the throttle to 1700 rpm while applying brakes.
    8. Check oil pressure and temperature indicators, ensuring they are in the green.
    9. Verify the proper functioning of the Ammeter.
    10. Ensure the suction gauge reads in green.
    11. Check the carburetor heat level.
    12. Confirm the proper functioning of the magnetos.
    13. Reduce the throttle to idle.
    14. Set flight instruments according to preferences or requirements.
    15. Adjust radios to desired frequencies.
    16. Release brakes and initiate taxiing.

    The before-takeoff  flight check list is finished up to the "final items" after the engine check. This is handy if there are delays or the runup area isn't at the end of the runway. You complete the final items when you're ready for takeoff, except for lights, camera, and action. Those are done when you're cleared onto the runway.

    To make sure you didn't miss anything and remember where you stopped, say it out loud, even if you're alone. After the runup, say, "Before-takeoff checklist done, down to final items." When you're first for takeoff, say, "Before-takeoff checklist done — lights, camera, action to go."

    What is the importance of a before-takeoff checklist?

    Confirming that all necessary systems are operational before taking off becomes second nature with time. Flying a well-maintained aircraft may make you feel confident, but complacency can set in.

    However, one day, you may discover a serious issue while going through your Flight checklist. This experience will underscore the continuing importance of preflight checklists in your pilot career. In a preflight check, you might uncover issues such as:

    1. Insufficient fuel for the flight.
    2. Malfunctioning instruments.
    3. Unresponsive flaps or ailerons.
    4. Non-functional lights, brakes, or door latches.
    5. Engine overheating or running rough.
    6. Navigation or communication equipment failures.

    While these problems are usually fixable on the ground, they could escalate to emergencies if found after takeoff.  A pre-flight checklist is an important preventive measure, ensuring that you and your aircraft are prepared for a safe flight and helping avoid potential accidents.

    Is there also a before-landing checklist?

    Yes! The before-landing  Pilot checklist follows a similar process. Finish it up to "final items" just before leaving cruise altitude. Doing these items while descending or entering the traffic pattern is distracting. After positioning the landing gear, propeller(s), and flaps for landing, complete the final items.

    Your verbal responses are: When you're ready to descend, say, "Before-landing checklist done down to final items — gear, prop(s), and flaps to go." Once these are done, say, "Before-landing checklist complete."

    Using this segmented checklist helps you manage the cockpit and follow standard procedures. Proper use of the written checklist has saved pilots from embarrassment and potential accidents.

    Conclusion

    Professional pilots use a  Flight checklist for all stages of flight, from preflight to takeoff, cruising, landing, and shutdown. They also have checklists for emergencies, like an engine failure. 

    Learning and practicing these procedures in ground school improves your skills and makes you a better pilot. Choosing a safety-focused flight school gives you access to tailored information and checklists for the aircraft you'll be flying.

    If you're working or planning to become a pilot, a high-quality and comfortable pilot shirt can be your great companion. Check out Bomcrewmall for the best men's and women's pilot shirts, pilot jackets, and other aviation accessories. 

    Frequently Asked Questions

    • Why do pilots have a preflight briefing?

    The preflight briefing helps the crew review the flight plan, make adjustments, check paperwork, and get everyone on the same page for the journey. Pilots break down the inspection into three stages - before starting the engine, starting the engine, and before takeoff - to make it easier to follow and complete.

    • What is a Daily Inspection (DI) in preflight?

    The Daily Inspection is a detailed check of the aircraft, done at the beginning of the day, looking for leaks, broken parts, and other issues.

    • What's the difference between a Daily Inspection and a Turnaround Check?

    The Turnaround Check is less detailed and happens before the next flight, focusing on issues that might have come up during the last trip.

    • What do pilots check during Aircraft and Avionics Setup?

    Pilots go through various systems and controls, like the flight management, radios, and fuel systems.

    • Why do some pilots say their checklists out loud?

    Speaking the  Pre flight checklist aloud ensures all items are confirmed. It's a common practice in passenger airlines, the military, and for solo pilots to reinforce memory and safety.

    • Should student pilots say their preflight checklist out loud?

    Yes, instructors often require students to speak their checklist aloud, helping reinforce the checks in memory and emphasizing safety.

    • How can pilots use a checklist for safety?
    Pilots can use a paper  Flight checklist or tablet, record completion in flight logs, and use apps to track safety documents and spot trends in aircraft performance and potential issues.