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Training Tip: Have you aborted a takeoff?

A pilot who has recently stepped up to a larger, more powerful single-engine airplane than the two-seat model he flew in training is taxiing out for takeoff in the new make and model. Focused on managing the takeoff, with its less familiar operating speeds and sensations, the pilot commences the run, but soon finds the aircraft veering toward the left side of the runway because he has failed to add sufficient right rudder to counteract the stronger left-turning tendencies induced by the more powerful engine.

Photo by Mike Fizer.

Almost at rotation speed, and accelerating, the airplane is pointed at a visual approach slope indicator (VASI) installation at the side of the runway when the pilot wisely brings the throttle to idle and steers the airplane to a stop, still safely on the pavement.

Unfortunately, not all such aborted-takeoff scenarios end so serenely. That’s a shame because with preparedness, judgment, and confidently applied technique, success shouldn’t be in doubt.

The weak link in that chain of corrective measures often is the preparedness component. As Barry Schiff asked in his October 2016 AOPA Pilot column, Proficient Pilot: The Takeoff Mindset, “How often does the average pilot actually give preparatory thought to aborting when lining up for takeoff (in a single or a twin)?”

Takeoff aborts come in two basic types: Those you can specifically plan for—such as failing to reach 70 percent of your takeoff speed before the halfway point on the runway, as one takeoff rule of thumb recommends—and those you can’t.

Examples of the latter type include a burp from the engine before liftoff; a suddenly flat tire; or some external factor such as an animal or a ground vehicle appearing suddenly on the runway ahead of you.

Such an incursion could occur at a towered airport too—so even if you have been cleared for takeoff and are rolling, be ready to comply with an abrupt cancellation of the clearance.

Another occasion when scrubbing your takeoff plan might be advisable is after landing too long on a touch-and-go. Ideally, an early go-around before touchdown would remedy this emerging problem. But if you have made the mistake of forcing the airplane down on remaining runway after a sloppy approach, don’t make things worse by trying to squeeze a takeoff out of the same deeply depleted parcel of pavement.

Are you trained to abort a takeoff? Share your thoughts at

Dan Namowitz

Dan Namowitz

Dan Namowitz has been writing for AOPA in a variety of capacities since 1991. He has been a flight instructor since 1990 and is a 35-year AOPA member.
Topics: Training and Safety, Training and Safety, Aeronautical Decision Making
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