Understanding the Why of Checklists

Here’s a tip that goes for any airplane you might be fortunate enough to fly: learning why certain items are on the checklist can help you remember to perform required actions in the correct sequence and will give you a better understanding of how the airplane really works.

In other words, don't perform a certain action item just because it’s on the checklist card. Knowing why you’re flipping a certain switch or pulling a knob -- and understanding what’s happening with a particular system at that moment -- could save your life someday, especially in an emergency.

Understanding what’s on the checklist means understanding and knowing the smallest details about your airplane’s systems and what needs to be accomplished. This probably means spending some quiet time memorizing the checklists. When you have a spare moment, practice the flow for each checklist section, and then skim through the list to be sure you did everything in the correct order. If you missed something, go back and do it again until you know it by heart.

If you come across an item and you don’t fully understand why you’re supposed to do it or what’s happening when you do, find out by asking a CFI, querying another competent pilot or searching for the answer online.

When you truly understand the airplane you fly and have a mastery of all of its systems and procedures, you’ll feel more confident and comfortable in the cockpit. And that will make every flight safer and more enjoyable.


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