Mastering takeoffs and landings

August 11, 2008

Sharing anecdotal stories both humorous and tragic, AOPA Air Safety Foundation Chief Flight Instructor J.J. Greenway tackled “Mastering Takeoffs and Landings,” the two phases of flight that account for nearly half of all pilot-related accidents.

Noting that the foundation has covered the topic before (“Ups and Downs” in 2002), Greenway said, “We try not to hit the same topics, but the problem area still exists. The statistics haven’t changed.”

Greenway, an ATP with more than 13,000 hours and a CFI for more than 25 years, first tackled takeoffs in his presentation before a large crowd. Showing video of an overweight, fuel-heavy takeoff on a very hot day, the audience groaned as they watched the aircraft get sluggish in the heavy air, drop, and flip over. Two of the four passengers were killed.

“Density altitude accidents continue to be a problem,” says Greenway. “They are easy to avoid—education is the key.”

On the subject of landings, Greenway asked if anyone in the audience had ever had a bad landing. Just a few hands went up. “OK, then, I’ll tell you mine,” he said. As a young airline pilot, Greenway was flying on his initial qualification flight. His training captain and a full load of passengers were along for the ride. “When we bounced the second time, the flight attendants called and said they had ‘the rubber jungle’—I found out that’s what they call it when all the oxygen masks fall down. So we kept the cockpit door closed as the passengers deplaned. If you are on a flight and the door’s not open, the pilots are less than proud of the landing.” More hands went up when he asked about bad landings the second time.

Greenway then showed a video of numerous landings, set to the music of Johann Strauss’ “The Blue Danube,” called “A Delicate Dance.” The audience laughed at the bounces, wobbles, and overruns. “We’d like you to join us in Frederick for our annual open house, but we might film you landing,” Greenway warned.

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Julie Summers Walker

Julie Summers Walker | AOPA Director of Publications, Managing Editor for 'AOPA Pilot' and 'Flight Training'

AOPA Director of Publications and Managing Editor for AOPA Pilot and Flight Training, Julie Summers Walker joined AOPA in 1998. She is a student pilot still working toward her solo.