Airplane Pre-Flight Checklist: Your Guide to Safe and Efficient Flying

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Use our airplane pre-flight checklist to ensure a stress-free and organized travel experience

Have you ever wondered what pilots do before they’re ready to whisk you across the world? Welcome to the intriguing world of the pre-flight checklist.


  • Understand the importance of an airplane pre-flight checklist
  • Learn about the history of the pre-flight checklist
  • Dive into key items found on a pre-flight checklist
  • Discover how pre-flight checklists contribute to aviation safety

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The Crucial Role of the Pre-flight Checklist

As the facts suggest, the pre-flight checklist isn’t a simple procedural formality. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) indicates that 20% of all general aviation accidents are due to improper pre-flight inspections. These incidents could have potentially been avoided with thorough checklists.

A Brief History of the Pre-Flight Checklist

The pre-flight checklist has roots in the 1930s with the U.S. Army Air Corps. Given the complexity of modern aircraft – a Boeing 747 checklist contains over 300 items – it’s no wonder these checklists have become an aviation mainstay.

The Importance of a Pre-Flight Checklist

Captain Sully Sullenberger, famous for his successful water landing on the Hudson River, once said, “A pre-flight checklist is a pilot’s best friend. It ensures that nothing is overlooked and that all systems are functioning properly before takeoff.”

The National Transportation Safety Board further emphasizes the importance of pre-flight checklists, stating, “The pre-flight checklist is a critical tool for ensuring aircraft readiness.”

How to Use a Pre-flight Checklist

While the specifics of a pre-flight checklist can vary depending on the aircraft type, there are common elements to all. For example, you’ll always see inspections of flight controls, fuel levels, engine operation, and navigation systems.

A Deep Dive into the Pre-Flight Checklist

Pre-flight checklists are not one-size-fits-all. They are specifically designed to fit each aircraft model’s unique requirements. From a small Cessna to a massive Airbus A380, each aircraft has its own dedicated pre-flight checklist.

1. Exterior Inspection

The exterior inspection, also known as the walk-around, is usually the first step. During this stage, the pilot checks the aircraft’s exterior for any visible issues like structural damage, fluid leaks, or tire wear. They will also inspect the wings, tail, and control surfaces to ensure they’re securely attached and free from obstruction.

2. Cockpit Preparation

Next, pilots move into the cockpit to prepare the aircraft’s interior. They’ll ensure the necessary documentation, such as the aircraft’s registration and the operations manual, is on board. All circuit breakers should be checked to ensure they are in place, and the flight instruments are set to their default positions.

3. Engine Start-up

Once the cockpit is set, it’s time to start the engine. But this isn’t as simple as turning a key. Pilots must follow the specific engine start-up procedure to ensure the engine is running smoothly and efficiently.

4. System Checks

With the engine running, pilots can now check the aircraft’s various systems. This includes the fuel system, electrical system, avionics, and flight controls. Each system has its own specific checklist to ensure nothing is missed.

5. Final Checks

The last items on the checklist are usually performed just before takeoff. These include setting the flaps, checking the flight controls for freedom of movement, setting the trim, and finally, a full power run-up to ensure the engine is operating correctly.

To illustrate the level of detail in these checklists, consider that the pre-flight checklist for a Boeing 747 has over 300 items. It’s a comprehensive process that leaves no stone unturned in the pursuit of safety.

As John King, co-founder of King Schools, aptly put it, “The pre-flight checklist is the foundation of safe and efficient flying. It’s a simple tool that can prevent catastrophic accidents.”1


Whether you’re a frequent flyer, an aviation enthusiast, or someone intrigued by the procedures that ensure your safe journey, understanding the pre-flight checklist offers fascinating insights. It reminds us of the immense responsibility pilots undertake every time they step into the cockpit, with the safety of their passengers paramount.


Why is a pre-flight checklist important?

A pre-flight checklist is crucial to ensuring all systems are functioning correctly, contributing to overall flight safety.

Who uses a pre-flight checklist?

Pre-flight checklists are used by all pilots, regardless of the aircraft they are flying.

What’s on a pre-flight checklist?

The specifics can vary, but common elements include flight controls, fuel levels, engine operation, and navigation systems checks.

When was the pre-flight checklist introduced?

The pre-flight checklist was first introduced in the 1930s by the U.S. Army Air Corps.

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  1. FAA Accident Statistics
  2. History of the Pre-Flight Checklist
  3. Boeing 747 Pre-Flight Checklist
  4. Captain Sully Sullenberger on Safety
  5. NTSB on the Importance of Pre-Flight Checklists

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