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Electronic Checklists: Pros & Features


A checklist represents the foundation of aviation standards and cockpit safety. In the early years of aviation, aircrafts were rather uncomplicated, compared to how it is now. Checklists were unnecessary, as it was recited by memory then. As aircraft systems and procedures become more sophisticated and complex, the higher the risks of air crash from human errors.

The origin of a checklist was implemented after the crash of US air force B17 in 1935, an innovative aircraft at the time. The trained and experimented pilot failed to recall all the tasks and procedures to be performed, leading to its crash in Wright field, Ohio. The crash surfaced an evident mishap, which was ingeniously resolved by creating checklists.

Thanks to checklists, millions of miles were flown safely. Over time- as aircrafts evolved and become more complex with innovation and detailed procedures, so did the checklists. More checklists led to higher possibilities of checklist errors from occurring. Improper use or the lack of use is often considered as a contributing factor to aircraft accidents.

Types of Checklists

Over the years, different approaches were used to reduce checklist errors and improve its safety. From human factors to training, techniques (such as challenge-response or do-list) to the design, typography, phraseology, color coding and much more, various types of checklists have been developed and experimented.

Besides the evolution of technology having a strong influence on the development of checklists, paper checklists still have remained predominant. Various types of checklists have been reviewed and assessed using mnemonics to computer based- each having their own advantages and disadvantages.

  • ·Paper checklists: the most common type of checklist used today and in all types of operations. A list of items printed on paper, simple and straight forward, but several disadvantages remain which we will discuss further on.

  • Scroll checklist: a narrow strip of paper between two reels scrolling vertically. It has as a pointer system unlike the paper checklists, but remains difficult to read due to its size, orientation and location.

  • Mechanical/electromechanical checklists: a small panel containing plastic slides moving over a list of items thought it is time and space consuming.

  • Vocal Checklist: Audible pre-programmed checklists. Once an item is acknowledged, the next will be generated. This becomes problematic in case of busy and noisy environment

  • Computer-aided/electronic checklists: With the progress of computerized graphic display, checklists were able to be included in some of these modern displays.

They are categorized into 2 types of models:

· Display and pointer: Using a pointer (such as a finger on the iPad), the pilot may select a checklist. Items will then be displayed, and as the cursor is moved trough the items, they will change or adjust their color depending on their status. (Completed /skipped/next item).

· Display and pointer WITH feedback loop: Same concept, however, the status of the checklist critical items is connected to each system, adding redundancy. If you acknowledge your landing gears are down but the system disagrees, the checklist will not be completed and give you a reminder or an abnormal checklist.

Cons & Common Risks of Paper Checklists

As previously mentioned, paper checklists have been predominant in aviation and proved its higher degree efficiency over other types of checklists (all except electronic checklists).

That being said, they do come uphold several disadvantages.

  • Lack of pointer, unable to distinguish accomplished and non-accomplished items.

  • Unable to memorize accomplished checklists

  • One hand holding the checklist

  • Readability at night

  • Ability to edit

  • Color coding and contrasts

  • Feedback from systems

Considering the disadvantages listed above, several common mistakes tend to recur such as: skipped items, getting lost within the checklist if distracted, misreading due to illumination issues, incorrect checklist initiated, further steps in flight non accomplished, operational notes forgotten.

Pros of Electronic Checklists

Nowadays, with iPads and smartphones readily available and regularly used, electronic checklists are slowly replacing and taking over paper checklists. They have proved that they can narrow or diminish the errors encountered by paper checklists.

The list of advantages keeps on expanding as technology progresses.

  • Designed to make information processing easier

  • Provides a pointer system

  • Stores accomplished items and checklists

  • Adjustable luminosity

  • In some cases, linked to systems, providing accuracy and redundancy

  • Easily edited

  • No hand holding checklists

  • Reminders of skipped items and non-accomplished checklists

  • Reminders of pending items and/or checklists

  • Color coding- which has proved its efficiency in several studies. The visual aid that provides the color coding adds a lot to identify, retrieve and associate the type of emergency.

Features of CHECKL!ST

Here’s the good news, all the advantages of electronic checklists previously listed above are included in our newly released application, CHECKL!ST.

As we all know, all recent aircrafts include an electronic checklist, otherwise, an EFB (Electronic Flight Bag), commonly used in commercial aviation as storage for documentation and checklists.

We are pleased to announce that with our app, a must for your iPad/iPhone device, you will benefit from all the advantages an electronic checklist can offer.

Here are just some of the features:

  • Easy and straightforward navigation between all checklists and phases

  • A pointer system, to never lose sight of where you are at all times.

  • Visual status of checklist completion as well as the items validation

  • Checklists design as per their type (on ground, in flight, emergencies and abnormal situations)

  • Visual reminders of pending checklists

  • Visual display of memory items to be carried out by heart without checklist reference

  • Vocal checklist (enhanced smart speech feature) connected to your headset via Bluetooth

  • Color coding

  • Adjustable luminosity & night mode

  • Editable and customizable checklists

  • Shareable checklist

While electronic checklists have been incorporated into commercial operations, it has not yet been properly addressed to the general aviation world, nor addressed its relative importance. At Safeapps, not only have we identified that need but also developed a straight forward and reliable app to securely enhance your safety and reduce your workload without changing your habits.

In the next weeks, we will be explaining further the use of normal and non normal checklists, an innovative interlinks feature, an emergency search tool and many more benefits the various features electronic checklists can bring to aviation and what CHECKL!ST has to offer.

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