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What is a pre-flight checklist?

What is a pre-flight checklist ?

A pre-flight checklist lists tasks that pilots and flight crews must complete prior to takeoff in aviation. Its aim is to improve flight safety by ensuring that no important tasks are overlooked. Failure to properly conduct a preflight check using a checklist is a major contributing factor to aircraft accidents.

What precisely is a pre-flight checklist?

A preflight checklist is simply the pilot’s operating handbook that must be completed before takeoff. Every aircraft has a specific checklist that is organized sequentially or in segments.

History of the flight checklist?

The idea of a flight checklist began in 1935 as a result of a significant accident on one of the B-17‘s first test flights. The elevator lock had been left on by the pilot, so once in the air, the plane did not respond to pitch control.

A checklist may appear to be an unnecessary extra step or a test of our abilities. Still, it is basically a method of double-checking our memory and avoiding missing critical steps in pre-flight routines. Many aircraft accidents could have been avoided if pilots had followed pre-flight checklists.

The Importance of Pre-Flight Inspection Checklists

Pre-flight inspection checklists are crucial because, like the pilots on the 1935 Boeing flight, steps can be accidentally forgotten or missed. Missed steps can cause minor problems at times, but they can also be dangerous.

Rather than relying on memory to inspect every aspect of your aircraft before takeoff, a pre-flight inspection checklist will help ensure consistency for each flight.

Pre-Flight Checklist: What Do They Look Like?

The appearance and length of the pre-flight checklist differ greatly, ranging from relatively simple lists of actions for single-engine aircraft, that most private pilots learn to fly.

But every pre-flight inspection starts with a walk-around of the aircraft and a visual inspection for any damage or anything out of the ordinary. From that visual inspection, the pre-flight inspection checklist goes as follows.

Of course, this is just one example of a pre-flight checklist for a single-engine piston aircraft. Always adhere to your aircraft’s manufacturer’s recommendations.

When Do Pilots Use Checklists?

Pilots have checklists for the following: “before start,” “after start,” “before takeoff,” “cruise,” “pre‑descent,” “in‑range” (about 10 minutes before landing), “after landing,” “parking” and, if the airplane is finished for the day, a “termination” checklist must be completed.

Checklists are fundamental to the aviation industry, the most regulated industry virtually eliminates mistakes and oversights. In addition to mechanical checklists mounted in the cockpit.

How long do pre-flight checks take?

The left main gear, engine, and wing must all be checked with the same scrutiny as the right-hand side. In total, a thorough walk-around will take around 10 minutes before it’s time to head back up the flight deck and finalize the aircraft for departure.

Pre-flight checklist examples

Here is an example of a checklist for a small Cessna airplane. Also, they appear to be a bunch of disconnected actions, but they are actually actions in groups for every element, such as standing next to the aircraft to inspect the body, ignition, power checks prior to taking off, and finally takeoff.

Before Starting Engine Checklist

Tasks Checked
Complete external checks
Seats adjusted and locked in position
Seat belts and shoulder harnesses fastened
A fuel shutoff valve on
Radios and electrical equipment off
Brake’s test and hold


Starting the Engine Checklist

Tasks Checked
Circuit breakers in
Mixture rich
Carburetor heat cold
Prime up to three strokes
Throttle open
Master switch ON
Beacon on
Ignition switch start
rpm Adjustment
Oil pressure check
Mixture lean one inch for taxiing
Flaps up
Radios on
Transponder on standby

Before Takeoff Checklist

Tasks Checked
Brakes set
Cabin doors latched
Flight controls are free and moving correctly
Elevator and set in takeoff position
Fuel valve on
Oil pressure and temperature are green
The suction gauge is green
Carburetor Heat
Flight instruments

Safety First

Everything that occurs during the preflight check demonstrates that safety is the number one priority in aviation.  And all of this contributes to aviation being an outstandingly safe form of transportation, whether for vacation or professional purposes.