February 1999 Issue

Turnback on Takeoff

Even a positive approach to emergencies reveals you probably can’t make it back to the runway

The word “emergency” comes from the classical Greek, Emergos, meaning “let’s get out of here.” Consider Icarus, the pilot who disregarded the service ceiling limitation on his Daedulus Skycoupe and failed to handle the subsequent forced landing by foolishly attempting a turn back to the island of Crete. Icarus perished because he had no plan to get out of there.

Three thousand years later, experienced pilots still take off with little thought of engine failure. Maybe that’s because engines are fairly reliable and such a tiny portion of a flight is spent in the climb.

Still, depending on the type of aircraft, as many as 20 percent of emergency landings originate in the takeoff and cli...

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