Safety Publications/Articles

Teaching Takeoff Safety

Know When Not To Go

As you teach your students to be safe pilots, do you include rejected takeoff? You should. It can be a serious accident problem, and knowledge about how to handle the situation promptly is vital to safety.

Ask your students: What would you do if the door popped open during takeoff? What would you do if you experienced an engine failure on takeoff? If the student can't answer, then he or she could be facing a potential disaster. The pilot has to know what to do and act promptly.

If the door pops open, sit calmly in the seat and fly a standard pattern for a return to land. Leave the door alone. The pilot probably cannot close the door in the air because of airstream pressure. On the ground, the door will close easily. That is the safe way to handle this situation. Still, some pilots will attempt to close the door in flight - even during takeoff - find that they are unable to do so, and sometimes crash.

If a problem develops during takeoff and the airplane has not become airborne, simply close the throttle, maintain directional control, and stay on the runway. Many runways are long enough to do that. If you are farther down the runway and staying on the ground would run you off the end of the paved runway, the situation could still turn out better than it might if you tried to fly.

If the airplane is on fire, close the mixture control, turn off the key, and maintain directional control. The pilot should guard against becoming so absorbed with the fire that he or she loses directional control.

Instruct your pilots on the possibilities for takeoff problems and explain how to handle them. The pilot who has been instructed will have a plan in mind, whereas the pilot who has not been instructed is likely to be too slow to act or do something regrettable.

Once even a little altitude has been gained, an engine failure can be one of the more critical problems that a pilot has to face in flying. If the pilot has reached as much as 300 or 400 feet when the emergency develops, he should not attempt to turn back to land on the runway. Attempting to return to the runway from a low altitude is dangerous. If sufficient altitude has been gained, such as traffic pattern altitude, it may be possible to return to the runway, but prospects for success are not great.

At a safe altitude, show your students how much altitude they can expect to lose when attempting to turn back. That's an easy thing to do at 3,000 feet. Turning back to the airport at low altitude is not a great option. Show your students how a return to the runway may be possible, but be sure to emphasize the perils of such a maneuver. At the same time, discuss other alternatives, such as landing straight ahead or making a slight turn to bring the airplane to open ground.

If the engine fails on climbout, quickly pitch to achieve best glide speed and pick the most suitable spot to land. When a problem develops during the climb, it is imperative to establish the best glide speed without delay. Some pilots, confused by the situation, may simply freeze in the cockpit and allow the airspeed to deteriorate, which it will do quickly, risking a stall or spin.

Have you taught your student how to establish the best glide angle? The speed normally will be a little faster than the normal landing approach speed. The objective is to pitch the airplane to generate the airspeed that will allow it to glide the greatest distance. A normal landing approach speed may be 80 knots down to 60 kt on the final approach, whereas the glide speed to produce the maximum distance may be 90 kt. Read the pilot's operating handbook for the specifics of the airplane you are flying and make sure that your student does the same.

By Ken Medley

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