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Using a Checklist Properly

Source:, Featuring Bob Martens

Subscriber Question:

"When is it NOT appropriate to use a checklist? I was conducting a training flight with a student in a C150 - we had a partial engine failure at 30ft AGL which necessitated an immediate off-field landing. I was sure that my bases were covered, because I had learned a flow and had all emergency items memorized. We had an uneventful landing with no harm to ourselves or our airplane. Our outcome would have been much different had I been head-down looking through the emergency checklist." - Josh J.

Bob Martens:

"It sounds to me like you have a pretty good sense already of the proper way to use a checklist. Yes, like any other tool, if it is used poorly, it can hurt you.

Engine failure after takeoff requires our undivided attention. In every aircraft, there are emergencies we must commit to memory. Every other action should be done using a checklist.

Every landing is a potential go around and we need to be prepared ahead of time. The before-landing checklist is one of the most important we run because of the distractions in the landing phase.

A checklist is a means of ensuring that we have accomplished all necessary items to accomplish a given goal. It should facilitate the task, not complicate it. We should integrate the checklist into our flying, so that we complete the task without compromising safety.

Can we complete a before-landing checklist and still clear for other traffic? Of course we can. We need to develop a flow that incorporates the checklist safely into the landing process.

Our human failures will set us up to be distracted if we do not. The fact that we have not YET erred is no guarantee that we will avoid it in the future. Every airline pilot and every military aviator uses the checklist religiously. We should too!"