Managing Takeoff Risks

by Roger M. Delisle

Those few first seconds after the wheels leave the ground is an exhilarating time for many pilots, but they can also be the riskiest of the flight.  The 2005 Nall Report shows that in 2004, in nearly 1 out of 5 pilot-related fatal accidents (19.4%), the emergency began during takeoff, before the initial climb.  That’s a very short period of time for such a high ratio of mishaps to occur, and it shows how something going wrong like an engine failure when you’re so close to the ground can quickly turn awry.  But there’s a catch word in the statistic I quote above:  Pilot-related.  That is, an accident that arises “from the improper action or inaction of the pilot”1.

In this first of what I hope to be many safety-related articles, I’ll cover how instructors at Rockcliffe are providing a more detailed look at a safer way to plan the takeoff, one which better prepares pilots for quick decisions during those critical first seconds of flight. This is inspired by an incident at our airport earlier this year which, as with most safety-related occurrences, make many pilots think, “What would I have done under these circumstances?” The safest pilot would go further and ask, “How can I learn from this incident, and is there room for improvement in the way I fly so that I can minimise risk under similar circumstances?”   To that end, let's review the incident.