How perfect and infallible is your memory? Would you bet your life on it? Probably not, but if you are taking off for a flight without having gone through a preflight checklist, you are indeed betting your life on your memory.

If this is you, it’s time to stop rolling the dice and commit to using a preflight checklist. Already have a checklist? Great – read on for ideas on how to enhance it and take it to the next level.

Preflight Checklists Infographic - Pilot Mall

What is a preflight checklist?

Simply put, a preflight checklist is a list of tasks that a pilot and/or crew must perform prior to takeoff. The checklist is aircraft specific and can be arranged in sequential or segmented order.

Where do preflight checklists come from?

The concept of pre-flight checklists originated in 1935 as a result of a fatal accident on one of the first test flights of the B-17. The pilot had left the elevator lock on, so once the place was in the air, it didn’t respond to pitch control.

During an after-action review following the incident, Boeing realized that the aircraft was too complex for pilots’ memories. It was unrealistic and unsafe to rely on pilot memory for everything that must be completed and checked prior to flight.

The solution? A preflight checklist.

Female Pilots going through a preflight checklist

Why should I use a preflight checklist?

We may be tempted to think that just because we have run through a series of pre-flight procedures hundreds or thousands of times, we can simply remember them all. A checklist may seem like an extra, unwarranted step or a questioning of our capabilities, but it is really a means of doublechecking our memory and avoiding overlooking critical steps in our pre-flight procedures. Failure to follow pre-flight checklists has contributed to many aircraft accidents that may otherwise have been avoided.

Creating a Preflight Checklist - Pilot Mall

What does a good preflight checklist look like and how do I create one?

A good preflight checklist is precise, efficient, practical and easy to use even under stress. It clearly states the item/part (ex- flaps) and the action (ex-down).

To give you an idea of what a checklist looks like, here is a sample for a Cessna 172. It takes you through the initial aircraft inspection and stops just before you start the engine.

Download this checklist to use as a template to create your own checklist. (Keep in mind that you should always consult your pilot’s operating handbook (POH) to ensure that your checklist is correct for your aircraft.)



  1. Documents – R.R.O.W.
  2. Control Lock – REMOVE
  3. Ignition Switch – OFF
  4. Avionics Switch – OFF
  5. Master Switch – ON
  6. Flaps – DOWN
  7. Fuel Quantity Indicator – CHECK
  8. Master Switch – OFF
  9. Fuel Selector Valve – ON BOTH


  1. Empennage Surface – CHECK
  2. Baggage Door – CHECK
  3. Horizontal Stabilizer – SECURE
  4. Elevator – FREE & SECURE
  5. Rudder – FREE & SECURE
  6. Tail Tie-Down – DISCONNECT
  7. Lights & Antenna – CHECK
  8. ELT Antenna – CHECK


  1. Flap – FREE & SECURE
  2. Aileron – FREE & SECURE
  3. Lights & Wingtip – CHECK
  4. Leading Edge – CHECK
  5. Wing Tie-Down – DISCONNECT
  6. Main Wheel Tire & Brake – CHECK
  7. Fuel Quick Drain – SAMPLE
  8. Fuel Quantity – VISUAL CHECK
  9. Fuel Filler Cap – SECURE


  1. Engine Oil – CHECK LEVEL (6 qt. minimum)
  2. Strainer Drain – SAMPLE/CHECK
  3. Prop/Spinner – CHECK
  4. Air Filter – CHECK CLEAR
  5. Landing Light – CHECK
  6. Nose Strut/Tire – CHECK
  7. Static Port – CHECK OPEN


  1. Main Wheel Tire & Brake – CHECK
  2. Fuel Quick Drain – SAMPLE
  3. Fuel Quantity – VISUAL CHECK
  4. Fuel Filler Cap – SECURE
  5. Pitot Tube Cover – REMOVE & CHECK
  6. Stall Warning Opening – CHECK
  7. Fuel Tank Vent – OPEN
  8. Wing Tie-Down – DISCONNECT
  9. Leading Edge – CHECK
  10. Lights/Wingtip – CHECK
  11. Aileron – FREE & SECURE
  12. Flaps – FREE & SECURE

Aviation Fuel Grades- Pilot Mall

Aviation fuel grades (fuel colors)

As part of your preflight inspection, you must draw a sample of fuel to check for water, contaminants/sediments, and the color of the fuel.
The hue of the fuel lets you know if you have the right grade; lower grades are typically used for low-compression engines, as these motors require fuel to ignite at a lower temperature.
Be sure to use the correct aviation grade for your aircraft's engine type.

Fuel Grades:

  • AV GAS 80: RED
  • AV GAS 100: GREEN
  • AV GAS 100LL(Low-Lead): BLUE

Other inspections you should keep on rotation

  • Preflight briefings
As the Pilot-in-Command, you have to let your passengers know about the seatbelt regulations according to Federal Aviation Regulation 91.107. 
It's also important to provide an Emergency briefing to educate those on board about what to do in case of certain crises, like engine failure or a fire.
  • Winter considerations
When the temperature drops or winter approaches, make sure to include inspection for ice on your preflight checklist. Inspect all moving and aerodynamic components, including the landing gear, for icy deposits.
  • Treat every preflight like it’s your first time
It's easy to forget the details of the preflight check after performing it enough times, so some pilots try to rely on their memory.
This is not the safest way and can result in someone missing vital steps. It would be wiser to go through all the steps one by one each time. Any problems should be fixed before taking off rather than trying to solve them in mid-air.

How to take your preflight checklist to the next level

You’ve reviewed your POH, you’ve created a checklist, and you faithfully follow the checklist on every flight. Is there anything you could be doing better?

The FAA challenges you to create an advanced preflight checklist – an enhanced, aircraft-specific version of your standard preflight checklist. Consider maintenance history, Airworthiness Directives (AD), Advisory Circulars (AC), Maintenance Alerts, Safety Alerts for Operators and any manufacturer-specific safety and service-related information. After reviewing all this information, add pertinent items to the checklist so you remember to inspect those key components at the appropriate times.

Learning Lessons

  • Preflight checklists are an important safety measure that should not be overlooked.
  • A good preflight checklist is precise, efficient, practical and easy to use even under stress.
  • Create your own personal checklist for your aircraft using the POH as a guide. 
  • For an advanced version of your checklist, add in aircraft-specific safety concerns based on recommendations from the FAA’s advanced preflight checklist pamphlet.

Aviation Checklists sells preflight checklists from Checkmate Aviation and Qref. You can view all Aviation Checklists Here.



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