Darren Smith, Flight Instructor
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CRM Series:  Checklist Usage

Navigation:  Fundamentals of CRM | Resolving Conflict | Workload Management Checklist Usage | Briefings & Callouts | Training CRM | Threats to Safety | Error Management | Integrating Threat & Error Management | What are you doing over there? | New Captain Series

Checklists are one of the most important pieces of safety equipment on the aircraft. They ensure proper configuration of aircraft for flight operations.  So why do people fail to use them?  
  • They take too much time . . .
  • I know my airplane so well . . .
  • They are too much work . . .
  • I fly a simple airplane . . .
  • Forgetting to finish them...

So Why Should We Use Checklists?

  • Helps prioritize items.
  • Frees up brain power for other tasks.
  • Reminds us of items when under pressure or fatigued
  • Standardization.

Methods of Checklist Usage

  • Call-do-response (“cookbook method”) -  typically used in general aviation.  It is not the CRM way because it does not provide redundancy and causes too many distractions.
  • Challenge-Verification-Response (checklist backs up flow patterns) - this method relies on a memorized flow method backed up by challenge-response (call out then wait for response).  Memorized flow checklists can't be relied upon because memory quality can be guaranteed.  Challenge-Response forces inter-crew checking: You check an item once in the flow pattern. The other pilot checks it again in the Challenge-Response pattern.

How we fail in our checklist usage

  • Using Memory Only - no challenge response backups means no inter-crew checking
  • Checklist pulled out by habit, but not used 
  • Checklist left entirely up to the PNF without checking for action or response from PF
  • ”Shortcutting”-Calling several items at once, failing to verify action for each.
  • Failure to declare completion of checklist which can confusion, and can devastate situation awareness.  Example:  "After Landing Checklist Complete"

Things that should cause us to use a checklist

  • Preflight inspection: Arrive early!! Shift attention to flight
  • Before Starting Engines: After door is closed, pax briefed
  • Taxi: Out of chocks
  • Before Takeoff: Arriving at runup area, or end of active rwy.
  • Lineup: Cleared by tower for takeoff (or t/o decision made)
  • After takeoff/climb: 500 or 1000 ft. above airport.
  • Cruise: reaching cruise altitude
  • Descent: Beginning descent into terminal area.
  • In-range: 10 miles out - sometimes combined with approach briefing.
  • Approach: Cleared for IAP or IAF, base leg at latest . . .
  • Before Landing: FAF inbound (IFR); TPA or 3 miles (VFR)
  • After landing: Hold when clear of runway
  • Shutdown: In chocks again

When using your checklist:

  • Respond with item status
  • Touch the items
  • Call checklists completed

"Trouble in the air is very rare.  It is hitting the ground that causes it." --Amelia Earhart

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