I've noticed that there appear to be many ways to read of a checklist between aircraft types and operators. The task and work division confuse me:

  • In some cases it appears to be entirely managed by the Pilot Not Flying [PNF], while in some cases the Pilot Flying [PF] is involved.
  • For the latter case, the response from PF seems to be 'checked' some of the time while in others there is a verbal feedback on the state of that control.

I guess this is a question between Standard Operating Procedures, but is there a best-practice to reading off checklists that is suggested to be followed as suggested by EASA or the FAA for instance?

Extra Thing: It would be great if somebody could elaborate on how a checklist actually would be worked through in practice like the one below with who says and does what.

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    $\begingroup$ One at a time and try not to skip any? $\endgroup$ May 21, 2015 at 11:22

2 Answers 2


The current FAA Advisory Circular dealing with SOPs in general, but only lightly touching upon checklists, is AC 120-71a. It is primarily aimed at Part 119 certificate holders who conduct operations under part 121, but is also recommended for operations under Parts 91, 125, and 135. It also changes the wording from Pilot Not Flying (PNF) to Pilot Monitoring (PM) in order to reinforce the idea that he or she is not just a passenger with a better view, but an integral part of the flight crew.

With respect to actual checklist usage, to the best that I've been able to find, the FAA does not issue a hard recommendation (air carrier checklists and procedures have to be approved by the FAA prior to certificate issuance anyways), but it does identify two primary methods of checklist usage: Challenge-Do-Verify (often used for abnormal and certain emergency procedures) and Do-Verify (often used for normal and time-critical emergency procedures), which relies on memorized flows followed by verification with the use of a checklist.

A 1995 Study issued by the FAA weighs in on the pros and cons of the two methods and surmises that, when used properly, the CDV method is less likely to result in missed items, but does allow for the fact that, in operational usage, pilots may batch items together, thus defeating the purpose of the systematic, step-by-step approach of the method.

Stepping aside from the multi-crew environment, where having someone with the checklist in their hand and reading things off one by one can work quite well, my personal observation has been that, in a single-crew environment, pilots who rely on a CDV-like method (sometimes known as Read-Do) are more likely to end up falling behind in configuring their aircraft than those who use DV-like methods, assuming of course that the pilots actually know their flows and perform the verification properly (as in actually verify that everything is as it should be rather merely reading items off the list and trying to remember if they've accomplished them).

Lastly, with respect to the 'checked' vs. verbal confirmation of status, this is usually dependent on how critical and laborious the status confirmation is. An example would be with altitude setting verification, where it is not uncommon for the procedure to call for the PF to set the new altitude in the Mode Control Panel and, while pointing to it, call out the new altitude, which is then verbally confirmed by the PM. Every operator's experience and demands will be different here, but a number of best practices are recognized and the folks at the FAA, NBAA, FSF, AOPA, and many others are doing their best to publicize and promote them.

See here for the FAA's Industry Best Practices Reference List.

The checklist you've provided appears to be intended for multicrew operations. In this particular case, what would happen if the CDV method was to be used is that the Pilot Monitoring would read the items off one by one and the Pilot Flying would execute accordingly, verbally acknowledge doing so, the PM would quickly verify compliance and move on to the next line item.

In a DV environment, the Pilot Flying would go through the flow, and call for the checklist, at which point the Pilot Monitoring would begin to read off the items, and the Pilot Flying would verify that they have been complied with.

The line items that have BOTH in them are meant to be a special emphasis case in that both crew members are required to verify that the line item has been complied with, regardless of method used.


There are really two aspects to your question: Operational usage and Design usage. The two are closely related, but let's look at them separately:

Operational Usage
From an operational standpoint the absolute best way to use a checklist is in a multi-person crew situation: Actions are performed (usually with the help of flows), then the checklist is read and each item is verified, ideally by a different crewmember than the one who performed the action.
This use of checklists provides independent and redundant verification that all required actions have been performed, and you find it in a lot of other industries that use checklists: The operating procedures at my day job are regulated by a different three-letter "F" agency, but our critical procedures still have checklists, and they're used as I described.

In a single-pilot environment the same logic holds: You generally want to use the checklist to verify (check) that things have been completed rather than using it as a "to-do list". This makes it a verification step and introduces redundancy into your procedures.
(If you can stand Jason Miller's slightly-cheesy intro music he discusses this in one of his podcast episodes, it's worth a listen.)

Design Usage
This is one that doesn't get discussed often, but ratchet freak made mention of it: Your checklist should be logically designed so you can move through it in an organized way.

The checklist you posted is an excellent example of this: A flight will proceed through that checklist top-to-bottom, left-to-right (the first things you do will be "Before Start", and the last things you do will be "Securing"), and within each category the checklist should also proceed in a logical order (for example good preflight checklists usually take you around the plane in an organized path.)

There is no shortage of badly designed checklists (manufacturer's checklists tend to be among the worst in this regard: A Piper or Cessna preflight checklist in the POH usually has you making 4 or 5 trips around the plane checking things in seemingly-random order).

The process of designing a good checklist is an interesting Human Factors problem - there's a lot of literature on it but it's way out of scope for this site. The usual solution to badly designed checklists is that pilots get frustrated and write our own.


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