The Importance of Checklists and How Pilots Memorise Them

For any Student Pilot the vast amount of Information to retain, plus the Theoretical Knowledge requirements, can be a little daunting. In addition to the obvious handling skills to be learned, there are checklists and other important tasks when learning to fly. That’s why we have created this short guide to some of the checks we use during the Practical Element of the PPL(H) Helicopter Pilot Course.

Learn to fly our Robinson R44 helicopters
Learn to fly our Robinson R44 helicopters

Daily Checks vs In Flight Checks

Some Checks we do once per day, such as the ‘Check A’ or the ‘Preflight’. The first person to fly the Helicopter on any given day should complete a thorough check of the aircraft (which is available in the Pilot’s Operating Handbook for the Aircraft Type). One of our instructors will also guide you through the check.

Some of the other checks we have to commit to memory, due to the Hands-on nature of flying a Helicopter. These checks form part of the Airmanship Skills required in gaining your license.

To help us, mnemonics are used as an aid to memorise these lists. A mnemonic is a memory device aimed at making it easier for us to memorise lists of items and recall them with ease later.

Different Checks are used depending on the Phase of Flight. Here are two mnemonic based lists that student pilots will start to memorise when learning to fly our Robinson R44 helicopters.

The first you will most likely use is the FREDA check, which should be verbalised regularly during en-route flying or prior to making an approach to land.

The FREDA Check

F – Fuel. What is our current fuel state, and do we have sufficient remaining.
R- Radio. Are we on the correct frequency, with a backup Frequency Set? Should we make a required Radio Call?
E – Engine. Are all the Warning Lights out? Are all Temperatures and Pressures in the Green Arc and Carburettor Heat out of the Yellow Arc.
D- Direction. Are we on the right Heading or Course? Is our Direction Indicator aligned correctly with our magnetic compass? Does our Current Heading correct appropriately for Wind Drift?
A – Altitude. Are we flying at the planned Altitude and is it appropriate for the area we are flying over?

Another Check to be carried out, the HASEL Check, is specific for when we are about to carry out an Autorotation (the Helicopter equivalent to gliding without the engine in order to make a safe emergency landing). HASEL checks are also used by aerobatic pilots before commencing any manoeuvres.

The HASEL Check

Height - What height are we currently at and do we have sufficient to undertake the task and safely recover.
Area – Is the area we intend to use generally clear and flat, and are we too close to irritate villages with noise?
Security - Harnesses and Hatches Secure. Any loose articles; phones, maps, etc. That may become dislodged during the manoeuvre.
Engine – Check all Warning Lights, Temperatures and Pressures (T’s and P’s) are indicating correctly, Carburettor Heat On, and Fuel Quantity Check.
Lookout – Is there any traffic in the area. Maintain a good Lookout in all directions before, during, and after the Autorotation.

For pilots just starting out, these odd phrases can be a little daunting, but don’t worry. While it may take a little effort to go back to school, they fall into place quite quickly and soon you’ll wonder how you ever flew without them.