The Importance of the Preflight Checklist

Online Pilot Training - Preflight Checklist

It happens to everyone, but here’s why you shouldn’t skip your preflight checklist:

All pilots understand they are supposed to review and perform the preflight checklist before every flight, but eventually it just becomes repetitive to the point that it means slipping or forgetting to perform every action. Well, there is a good reason behind this checklist, despite the repetition: it works. Skipping the checklist means you can accidentally miss a major step, turning carelessness into a full-blow in-flight emergency. Keep reading to learn more about making the checklist less mundane and why it’s important to follow the procedure every flight.

Hear from pilots.

Now, we can talk all day about how important it is to ensuring the safety of the crew, passengers, and aircraft, but let’s hear from some real life examples of what could’ve or did go wrong when checklists become optional:

1) Wally Moran, a retired airline captain, explains a day that he almost forgot to review his checklist and how/why the situation could have ended extremely poorly. He would’ve just been “a statistic in the NTSB files” to steal Moran’s own words. The story is an example of why self-discipline and repetition are essential to being a safe and prepared airman. Read Moran’s full story now.

2) One of our own recalls an instance of those weight and balance problems coming to life while loading a Caravan. Turns out a missing tailstand combined with a growing aft CG results in the nose wheel coming off the ground and the tailstand bracket trying to contact the pavement. While easily remedied by installing the stand and adjusting some cargo, the task took additional time and made them the story of the week in the pilot lounge. Fortunately this is a minor instance and didn’t result in any aircraft damage, but it is a humbling reminder to always check every step of the list, because no matter how behind you are, skipping a step can make it even worse.

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Make the checklist feel new.

There is a typical rhythm pilots default to when they run through a checklist they perform every flight, especially if it is a flightcrew that has flown together several times. This comfort and understanding of each other with repeated actions is natural, however, this shouldn’t mean you get careless. You can’t cut corners or skip a step in the checklist, but there are ways you can switch up the repetitiveness, yet still complete all the tasks: 

  1. Read the checklist aloud, even if you are alone. This can make the checklist seem less mundane and will ensure you don’t miss anything on the list. Holding a conversation with yourself is okay if it means a safe flight. 
  2. Along with reading aloud, have your EFB read your e-checklist aloud to you, and you can check and confirm duties are complete. 
  3. Complete the checklist sections out of order. Some people live for routine and others find routine boring. Make notes or physically check off completed sections and simply move on to the next section. 
  4. Switch up these tactics as needed to keep the checklist fresh, even if you have every step down and can repeat it in your sleep. Although getting in the habit of constantly checking these things is good, by not referring to your checklist you open yourself up to the possibility of an extreme, or in some cases fatal, oversight. 

We hope you head caution from these stories and find ways that work for you to continually make the preflight checklist a priority and reference you utilize. Although we understand the repetitive nature of the checklist can be draining, especially when under a time restraint or operational pressures, it is still important to complete each seemingly mundane task, as water in the fuel, gust locks still installed, flight controls not free and correct, gear down before landing, all simple items that can be the difference between a smooth flight and something that can land you in a state of emergency.

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