How To use a checklist
Checklists have been around since the 1930’s, There was a brand new cutting edge plane made by Boeing, the Model 299, and it crashed after take off killing three people including a pilot and two passengers. The copilot and two other passengers were pulled out of the wreckage and survived. Upon investigation the airplane had no mechanical defects which led the investigation to talking to the co-pilot who concluded the airplane still had its flight controls lock in-place, causing the aircraft to be uncontrollable after takeoff. On October 30, 1935 Boeing implemented the “Checklist” to be used as a permanent and mandatory tool. Today, you cannot operate a commercial airplane without using a checklist as a pilot. It doesn’t stop there; from the creation of each plane, to maintenance checks, to the flight attendants who assist with your inservice flight, checklists are mandatory through the aviation industry. The checklist has expanded beyond aviation and are now mandatory tools used by surgeons, nurses, architects, educators, software, marketing, psychology and every other industry you can think of. Checklists save lives.
Learning to operate an airplane takes the understanding of what a checklist is, and properly implementing it in the cockpit. You’ve been given a checklist and now it’s your job to learn how to use/read it. Good checklists are precise. They are efficient, to the point, and easy-to-use even in the most difficult situations. They do not try to spell out everything—a checklist cannot fly a plane. Instead, they provide reminders of only the most critical and important steps—the ones that even the highly skilled professionals using them could miss. Good checklists are, above all, practical.
JPLAviation has made a checklist to be used in the operation of a Cessna 172. It is made to “check” the “flows” you will learn in your primary training. A flow is a memorized set of action items needed to be done during a certain phase of operation. You would then look at your checklist after the flow is completed to verify that everything has been completed on the checklist. A common technique for a flow is to organize it in regards to direction in the cockpit while flying general aviation planes. For example in a Cessna 172 engine failure scenario, I teach A,B,C,D, (Airspeed, Best place to land, Checklists, Declare) which is the required memorization items. For the C portion of ABCD, I teach the flow of “floor to door” which is a flow for an engine failure to diagnose the engine quitting after establishing best glide speed and a place to land. You’d check the fuel selectors, mixture, carb heat, and ignition. You would then whip out the checklist (time permitting) and go through the engine failure check to make sure you’ve covered all the items. If nothing worked to restart the engine, then you would complete the rest of the checklist for securing the engine before impact.
There are eleven phases of the checklist to learn and six of them are essential flows. The six essential flows are starting engine, before take off, run up, climb, before landing, and after landing. The way I have structured my checklist is that it goes in the order of the flow, “floor to door”. To get ahead of your flight training and make it as cost efficient as possible it’s your job to study the checklist and it’s memory items. The next level of learning after memorizing the checklists action items are to start reading about and understanding the systems behind the buttons/knobs you’re moving. Print out the checklist, fold it in half, and laminate it so it is ready for your first lesson.
If you’ve made it this far in the article you’re the type of pilot that is going to be safe, practical, and successful in this industry. If you desire the level of detail and insight in your training to the depth this article provides, please fill out my student application form. I am always looking and willing to accommodate students that wish to invest in their flight training the right way, while bringing the proper mentality of dedication. I am currently an independent contractor out of an amazing club in Corona called California Flyers with DPE’s in it that give great availability for check rides for students. I can’t wait to hear from you.
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