John Laming has written an interesting and bound to be controversial piece about checklists for Air Facts where he asked whether or not checklists are actually necessary – especially for GA aircraft designed to be flown by one pilot. To put things in perspective: John says he first heard about written checklists back in the mid-1950s when he was a squadron QFI (a check and training captain) where he was involved in the training of newly graduated RAAF pilots to fly Lincoln bombers (similar to the wartime Lancaster). John noted that checklists were not used because cockpit drills were memorized. However, John also mentioned that the introduction into Australia of American Cessna and Piper trainers along with their Pilot Handbooks meant that printed checklists began creeping into general aviation.
John then recounted a story of how he once gave a dual check to a student with 15 hours in his log book but after the student was already strapped in, he announced that he had forgotten to bring his checklist and would need to go back to his car and get it. John said forget it and added: “You don’t need a checklist for a Cessna 150.” However and without his checklist, the student pilot said that he could not even turn on the engine.
John also wrote that the proliferation of read and do checklists in small general aviation aircraft now surprises him as these aircraft are designed to be flown by just one pilot. He then added:
I recall chatting to the smartly uniformed pilot of a visiting Trinidad. It was an immaculate aircraft with an impressive cockpit layout. While the pilot’s checklist was well designed and had lots of pretty colours, it was lengthy and included such read-out items as Check all clear for starting, taxi clearance received, ATIS received, cruise power set and a host of other reminders consisting of normal airmanship items which need not be included in a checklist.
On the other hand and after re-reading John’s article twice, Ron Rapp of The House of RAPP blog concluded that Mr. Laming has just encountered too many badly-designed or written checklists:
As anyone who’s operated a wide variety of aircraft types (I’ve flown over 60) can tell you, poor checklists are more often the rule than the exception, and the worst of them will leave a long-lasting bad taste in your mouth. They disrupt the flow of a flight much the way an actor with poor timing can disrupt a scene. One of the great aviation mysteries is why so many lousy checklists continue to exist. They’re not limited to small aircraft, either.
Ron wrote that the manufacturer-provided checklist for the Gulfstream IV is “comically long” and he doesn’t know “who designs these things.”
Hence, we want to ask you our readers what you think: Do you really need a lengthy checklist to operate a general aviation aircraft like a Cessna 150? Moreover, does Ron have a point when he wrote that there are too-many badly designed checklists?
Frank Van Haste says
The estimable Capt. John Deakin covered this question 13+ years ago in this essay titled "Throw Away That Stupid Checklist."