FAA Issues Checklist Warning

The FAA has issued a safety alert warning pilots to use caution with commercial off-the-shelf or personally developed checklists. Flying

Using a Pilot’s Operating Handbook (POH) or Airplane Flight Manual (AFM) as a checklist is cumbersome and can damage these valuable documents that must be carried in the cockpit. To protect the books and for convenience, most pilots prefer to use a smaller checklist, which can be purchased from a third-party provider, downloaded from the Internet or created at home. However, this practice could present problems for the pilot if the checklist doesn’t accurately follow the recommended procedures from the manufacturer.

The FAA has issued a Safety Alert for Operators (SAFO), warning pilots to use caution when using commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) or personally developed checklists during aircraft operations. The SAFO cites a case in which a pilot used a COTS checklist during an emergency gear deployment. The flawed printed procedure resulted in the pilot landing with the gear only partially extended resulting in extensive damage to the airframe.

An investigation found that the COTS checklist and the POH/AFM checklist did not match. Not only did the checklist omit a critical caution message, it also left out steps in the emergency gear extension process.

The FAA is not going so far as to prohibit the use of COTS checklists. However, the administration recommends that pilots carefully compare the checklist in use with the procedures published in the POH/AFM.

Pia Bergqvist joined FLYING in December 2010. A passionate aviator, Pia started flying in 1999 and quickly obtained her single- and multi-engine commercial, instrument and instructor ratings. After a decade of working in general aviation, Pia has accumulated almost 3,000 hours of flight time in nearly 40 different types of aircraft.

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