Navigating Aircraft Safely
A Division of the AOPA Foundation Copyright: 2011
Takeoffs & Landings
The “simple” act of taking off or landing accounts for 50 percent of all general aviation accidents.
If there’s one thing that student pilots, flight instructors, and high-time veterans all have in common, it’s asusceptibility to takeoff and landing mishaps. Why do pilots have so much trouble with these two most fundamental flying skills? It’s simple: Takeoffs and landings require us to operate fast, relatively fragile machines in close proximity to the ground. There’s not much room for error, even under ideal circumstances. Throw in wind, obstructions, and short/soft fields, and things just get worse.Mastering takeoffs and landings requires attention to detail and a healthy respect for the limitations of airplane and pilot. What’s the field elevation? The temperature? How long is the runway, and what’s the wind speed/direction? Is the airplane
heavy? Will you really be able to squeeze “book” performance out of a tired, 30-year-old trainer?
THE 50/50 SOLUTION
The Air Safety Institute (ASI)recommends adding 50 percent to the POH takeoff or landing distance for obstacle clearance. For example: If the book specifies a minimum of 600 meters, add 300 meters (50 percent) for a safety distance of 900 meters. The two checklists in this article are full of tips for mitigating the numerous risks associated with takeoffs and landings. As you read them, remember that the root cause of mostaccidents is poor judgment. Know the aircraft, the airport, and the environment… but most importantly, know when it’s time for you to divert, go around, or stay on the ground.
SAFE PILOTS. SAFE SKIES.
TAKEOFF & CLIMB
The “Impossible Turn”: If the engine fails shortly after takeoff, should you try to turn around and land on the departure runway? The viability of theso-called “impossible turn” depends on the circumstances, but there are plenty of reasons to be wary. The maneuver requires substantial altitude and involves relatively aggressive maneuvering. Taken by surprise, pilots often fail to maintain airspeed and end up having stall/spin accidents. Unless you’re close to pattern altitude, or have already started a turn when the engine fails, it’s safer to landstraight ahead—i.e., within the area you can see out the windshield.
Runway Length Density Altitude
“Short” runway. High density altitude.
· 50/50 solution (see pg. 2). · Use all available runway. · Fly in cooler temperatures. · Decrease fuel and/or cargo. · Use longer runways. · Avoid runways with obstacles. · Maintain Vx until clearof obstacles. · Then maintain Vy. · Deflect ailerons into the wind. · Too much wind? Use another runway. · Use a higher rotation speed. · Avoid tailwinds unless you have no other option (example: one-way runway).
Increased climb angle. Obstructions may cause turbulence. Loss of control. Tailwind will increase runway length needed.
· Usually best to takeoff downhill. · Risks vary with wind, runway slope, terrain. · Generally requires more runway. · Acceleration will be slower. · May be difficult to outclimb terrain. · Talk to local pilots or airport manager. · Perform a soft-field takeoff. · Keep weight off the nosewheel. · Transition from taxi to takeoff without stopping. · Once airborne, accelerate in ground effectbefore climb out. · Use a longer runway, especially with high density altitude. · Stay night proficient. · Avoid short runways at night.
Soft or Contaminated
Soft. Slush or snow.
Heavy Aircraft Night
Increased takeoff roll and reduced climb. Decreased visibility. Disorientation.
SAFE PILOTS. SAFE SKIES.
APPROACH & LANDING
Going Around: If you have...