View Full Version : What should, and shouldn't, be on a checklist

Genghis the Engineer
13th Sep 2015, 21:35
I'm curious as to people's opinions. For the checklists used by private pilots - private and school aeroplanes - and smaller aeroplanes used for single pilot commercial tasks. What should be in, and what should be out?

For me, in should be: - Start, run-up, take-off, FREDA (or equivalent), HASELL (or equivalent), pre-landing, after landing, shut-down, emergency drills, plus basic operating numbers.

Shouldn't be in, as this should be flying skill and airmanship, or kept elsewhere: pax brief, take-off safety brief, multi-page external walkaround, turning strobes off in cloud, actions at top and bottom of climb, information about home airfield.

I'm not so sure: taxi checks.

Thoughts anybody else?


13th Sep 2015, 21:57
The first checklist i typed and printed out was done on a Sinclair ZX81 printer. The thermal paper was about 4 inches wide and just all the checks you mention could be printed in a handy size about 9 inches long, double sided. Emergency checks could be printed on another similar sized print out.

I now have similar across two sides of A4 card.

Some of the latest commercial checklists are terrible typeset to read.
Shall not mention the publishers.

Trim Stab
14th Sep 2015, 09:22
and smaller aeroplanes used for single pilot commercial tasks. What should be in, and what should be out?

I fly in that category. I have checklists on board to verify that I have correctly carried out memory items in an abnormal or emergency situation. I don't use checklists at all for all normal flying.

Genghis the Engineer
14th Sep 2015, 11:28
I fly in that category. I have checklists on board to verify that I have correctly carried out memory items in an abnormal or emergency situation. I don't use checklists at all for all normal flying.

Well done on being that good. I'm not, and my students certainly aren't.

Personally, I'm quite sure I'd screw up sooner or later if I did everything on the dozen or so types I fly annually without using checklists of some sort.

Whilst there's plenty of healthy debate out there as to how to construct and use checklists - I think that Atul Gawande's work on medical checklists comes to mind when people say they don't need them. Of the surgeons he was working with only 20% felt they needed them, but 94% wanted anybody operating on them to use a checklist. Not to mention the 50%ish reduction in fatalities they achieved on some operations. Of course, surgeons are less well trained than pilots, and so probably needed this more than we do. :}


(Also envious of BigEndBob - I never ran to one of those posh thermal printers on my ZX81 ! I do agree with him about the dreadfulness of certain commercial checklists however. A company beginning with "P" is a particular dislike of mine in this regard.)

14th Sep 2015, 12:09
It's a subject dear to my heart. You may wish to take some time looking at the publications that NASA produced, largely based on the work by Asaf Degani and Earl Wiener, with some examples here:

Asaf Degani - Procedure Design (http://ti.arc.nasa.gov/profile/adegani/procedure-design/)

They refer to 'killer items' and I think that's a good basis for deciding what goes in - anything that won't hurt you physically (as opposed to denting your pride!) if it's not done probably doesn't need to go in.

14th Sep 2015, 16:01
I have operated single pilot IFR in complex types and also flown multi-crew and I think that at least as important as what is in the checklist is how it is used. I don't agree with checklists being 'read and do' once the airplane is moving and many times I have seen things nearly go wrong because of this. Example being watching a solo student taxi to the hold, turn into wind, set the parking braking, starting reading and doing the power checks, increase rpm, look at check list to see what to do next (was it mags or carb heat?) and then look up to find themselves slowly rolling into the grass.

Naturally teaching good habits could have avoided that but also could have been avoided by keeping the head of of the paper.

Piltdown Man
14th Sep 2015, 16:23
I don't think PPL's really need to use printed checklists when flying. Only use them to help commit the lists items to memory. I haven't flown a piston powered aircraft that needed a checklist (singles, twins, retractables, wobbly props etc.). Mnemonics such as TTMPFISCH cover the essentials and teaching scan flows allows pilots to concentrate on what is important and rapid transitioning between types. Also, if flying us taught as a series of processes, the relevant items will be covered during each process as it is executed. For example, cleaning up required the flaps to be retracted, climb power (pressure & RPM) and he trim to be set. So what is the point of an "after take-off checklist"? When taught real flying "Downunder" both PPL & CPL was done without a written checklist.

It is also not fair to compare surgery to PPL flying. Surgeons are part of a team and when running teams, checklists have a function. In addition, surgery teams have the ability to stop, even if just for a second and have the further luxury of someone else being able to read it out.

As for pupils not remembering checklists, maybe yours are too long and/or too awkward? Simplify them (I remember a UK checklist when the circuit breakers were checked three times before we got in the air) and then make sure your pupils learn the little that remains.

They will be better pilots in the long run for not using checklists.


Trim Stab
14th Sep 2015, 20:26
Well done on being that good. I'm not, and my students certainly aren't.

I don't pretend to being "that good".

Checklists for normal situations have their place on complex multi-crew aircraft flying IFR in well-controlled airspace, or for students, or for private VFR pilots who fly only a few dozen hours per year.

They are not the highest priority if flying a relatively simple and very familiar aircraft, single pilot, and in non-controlled or poorly controlled airspace. Most of my flying is single-pilot hot/high survey or para-military flying in Africa or Latin America on a very familiar MEP and I would prefer to be looking out of the window for vultures, condors, and other aircraft or inside checking the gauges rather than reading a checklist to verify that I have put up the gear, flaps etc.

On my most regular aircraft in Africa I have the "will it kill me" items in dynotape on the dashboard for pre-take off and pre-landing and I make a habit to check them at the appropriate time.

I do when back home on leave fly freelance on business jets with a copilot and then I revert back to using the printed factory checklists.

14th Sep 2015, 20:51
For single crew I am not a fan of checklists once airborne - pre start up to before TO go on a checklist, after TO, TOC, HASELL (I use HASTELL to include transponder before aeros), FREDA etc are all done from mnemonics, though I have no problems having them in an expanded checklist somewhere, After landing and shutdown checks are also checklist items.

Genghis the Engineer
15th Sep 2015, 11:20
I would venture that a mnemonic checklist is still a checklist.

I got my first PPL on microlights where we used a bunch of mnemonics that 25 year later I'm still using in microlights, from memory. But whether I do it from a mnemonic or a printed checklist, good old STAIP, CHIFTWAP, HASEL, FEEL, FAWNTH are still checklists.

And of course, you give that written down to a student to learn from, even if you expect them to memorise them.

Similarly - I would be very disappointed in a qualified pilot at any level getting the printed checklist out for BUMPFFICHWL, but that they're using the mnemonic in that way (and have it in the cockpit, perhaps in case of brain fade) still makes it a checklist.

Trim Stab's dynotape on the dashboard, ditto.


15th Sep 2015, 13:24
I would venture that a mnemonic checklist is still a checklist

I would venture that it is a 'do list', which is something different :ok:

Genghis the Engineer
15th Sep 2015, 16:24
Well we obviously agree that it's a list anyhow.

I tend to think of checklists falling into three categories of use: read -do, do-confirm or challenge respond. My read-do checklist is presumably your do-list. That bit of semantics we probably don't need to get overly worked up about.


15th Sep 2015, 22:15
Have had a few well experienced PPL's do checks from memory and miss vital items like fuel pumps or not setting trim.
I explain to students the need for a checklist is when the average PPL hasn't flown for six months and need some assistance in making sure everything is set has it should be.
If you fly say daily, then I think a checklist is not required except for emergencies. Even then I have seen a live engine shut in flight with the other feathered, simply because of the way the checklist was written.

Student asked me "is there time when they will not use a checklist?", I said "yes, when you become an instructor and get your student to do them". (Although I would still check the fuel caps and cowling fasteners!).

This is the typeset I use in checklists;

1/ PARKING BRAKE.................................ON
2/ SEAT ..................ADJUSTED AND LOCKED