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Takeoff and Landing Checklist Best Practices

Takeoff and Landing Checklist Best Practices, March 2017In February, beloved Star Wars actor and longtime flying enthusiast, Harrison Ford, was in the news due to an unfortunate landing mishap. Ian Gregor, the public affairs manager for the FAA’s western division, stated in an email, "Air traffic controllers cleared the pilot of a single-engine Aviat Husky to land on Runway 20L at John Wayne Airport Monday afternoon. The pilot correctly read back the clearance. The pilot then landed on a taxiway that runs parallel to the runway, overflying a Boeing 737 that was holding short of the runway. The FAA is investigating this incident."

Ford’s situation is a reminder of the importance of reviewing takeoff and landing safety protocols and procedures.

Better to use checklists

Most pilots use written checklists, while many others don’t because they feel they are experienced enough, and/or too busy, and don’t need them. Don’t let complacency create dangerous conditions. Even if you do a mental checklist on takeoff and landing, it’s a good idea to say it aloud, and refer to a written checklist to make sure you didn’t miss anything.

The following is a suggested segmented checklist for takeoff and landing, which means it is designed specifically for those times. However, your pilot’s operating handbook and/or aircraft flight manual may differ slightly, so be sure to review that for added safety.

Before takeoff checklist

  • Altimeter – set
  • Auxiliary fuel pump – off
  • Directional gyro – set
  • Engine idle – checked
  • Flaps – as required
  • Flight controls – free and correct
  • Fuel gauges – checked
  • Instruments and radios – checked and set
  • Landing gear position lights – checked
  • Magnetos – checked
  • Parking brake – off
  • Propeller – exercise
  • Seat belts/shoulder harnesses – fastened
  • Trim – set

Final checklist

  • Action – engine instruments checked
  • Camera – transponder on
  • Doors and windows – locked
  • Lights – landing, taxi, strobes on
  • Mixture – full rich unless above 3,000 feet MSL

Before landing checklist

  • Cowl flaps – as required
  • Directional gyro – aligned with magnetic compass
  • Fuel selector – fullest tank
  • Mixture – full rich unless airport above 3,000 feet MSL
  • Seat belts/shoulder harnesses – secure

Final checklist

  • Flaps – as required
  • Landing gear – down
  • Propeller – high rpm

A note about non-towered airports

At untowered or “uncontrolled” airports, remember to communicate with nearby pilots and be aware of the airports’ traffic pattern and procedures to avoid collisions. Also take some time to review the following AOPA Foundation safety resources for non-towered airports.

Visit AOPA’s “Operations at Airports” website to find non-towered airport safety courses and information.

Beware of bird strikes

Bird strikes are a serious problem that costs the U.S. civil aviation industry at least $500 million annually due to aircraft damage and more than 500,000 hours of aircraft down time, according to the Federal Aviation Administration.

In addition to the financial costs and mechanical damage, bird and wildlife strikes have also caused airplane crashes and injuries and deaths to pilots and passengers, underscoring the seriousness of a growing problem.

Bird strikes have increased exponentially over the years due to various factors, including planes getting faster and quieter. Also, there are a greater number of birds due to successful conservation efforts. At the same time, many species have been forced to move into suburban and urban areas due to urban sprawl.

Although Canadian geese are often the culprits due to their size and large numbers, deer, coyotes and other animals wandering onto runways are also a potential danger during takeoff and landing.

While pilots, aviation professionals, airports and FBOs can’t control the increase in populations or aircraft traffic, we can become better aware and knowledgeable about the issue, know the facts and follow standard operating procedures to reduce the risk of bird and wildlife strikes.

To start, visit the FAA’s Wildlife Hazard Mitigation website.

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