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Pilots need to go through a checklist before they take off. Are these procedures decided by the airlines and (or) the manufacturer, or by the Civil Aviation Regulatory Authority of the respective country?

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The manufacturer will publish a checklist. Some airlines will choose to use the manufacturer's checklist verbatim, while others will adapt it to their specific operation based on things like safety reporting data from their fleet. The end result will need to be approved by the regulating authority (in the US, the FAA -- specifically the Certificate Management Office or CMO for that airline) before it's used by crews.

An example of how an airline might modify the checklist would be to adapt it in light of new Human Factors research. Telling crews to "run this checklist" during some large interval of time (say, between leaving the gate and reaching the runway, or between leaving cruise altitude and starting the approach) can lead to a missed checklist, and research recommends "anchoring" the checklist to some cue that's unlikely to be missed. So, "run THIS checklist before you release brakes and start to taxi, and THIS checklist when you have about 2000' left to taxi before reaching the end of the runway, and THESE 3 items as you take the runway for departure" gives crews anchor points that they'll observe anyway and leave them less likely to look back and wonder "did we read the Before Takeoff checklist?"

The manufacturer might have made it all one long 15-item checklist that they have crews read "whenever," but the airline could separate out the items that are best accomplished before starting to taxi (knowing that the more items you put here, the longer the delay before the aircraft starts moving), the items that can be accomplished while taxiing (probably not stuff that requires a lot of 'heads down' time like reviewing the FMC routing), and the items that should be delayed until immediately before departure (strobes lights, landing lights, radar etc).

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  • $\begingroup$ Obviously the manufacturer knows the human factor research too and can prepare the checklists/procedures so that it takes them into account. So why would the airlines want to tweak them differently? $\endgroup$ – Jan Hudec Jun 11 '15 at 7:21
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    $\begingroup$ The manufacturer's checklist that I've seen tends to be pretty general. It covers what you must do to operate the airplane, but it's not necessarily the most efficient way to do it. Say you always start on a hardstand, & when you leave the hardstand you're at the runway within a minute. That case drives a different solution than if you typically push back from a gate, sometimes very close to a runway and sometimes very far. Say 1 operator always flies in the US where transition level is always 180 - anchor "descent checklist" there. Another has trans lvl between 190 and 020: different needs! $\endgroup$ – Ralph J Jun 11 '15 at 7:31
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    $\begingroup$ Another reason, in some cases: airline A has Airbus + Boeing + McDonnell Douglas aircraft, with pilots regularly transitioning between them. The FAA would require a level of standardization across fleet types, so if that standard is "Before Descent Checklist" before top of descent & "Approach Checklist" at 10,000', then that's what they'll all have. Airline B with all Boeings, doesn't have that constraint. $\endgroup$ – Ralph J Jun 11 '15 at 7:57
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    $\begingroup$ The comments may be worth editing into the answer. $\endgroup$ – Jan Hudec Jun 11 '15 at 7:59
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For commercial flights run by carriers or charter companies, the company makes the checklists. These will be based on the manufacturer-recommended checklists.

Pilots working for small companies or flying individually make their own standard operation checklists. Usually when a pilot starts flying a type they will use either a manufacturer checklist or a commercially published checklist. Then, at some point the pilot may make minor changes for various reasons.

For non-normal operations (emergencies), the manufacturer checklists are used verbatim.

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