October 2009 Issue

Can’t See Nuthin’

The zero-zero takeoff is much discussed, but would you ever attempt one? If you’re brave enough, how would you go about it?

The proverbial zero-zero takeoff can be a perennial topic of debate whenever instrument pilots get together. Although you may have practiced them during your instrument training, chances are you’ve never attempted one since. Perhaps you’ve been presented with the need, but didn’t want to tackle it in real conditions. Perhaps you’ve been lucky and the need never arose. If you had to execute a zero-zero takeoff, what is a good technique? How would you go about it? And what about the flight’s necessity makes a zero-zero takeoff a good idea, regardless of how many you’ve flown? Of course, what exactly is a zero-zero takeoff, anyway? Why might we want to execute one? In real-world conditions, a ceiling of zero feet rarely exists; for practical purposes, there’s usually a little "air" between the surface and overlying clouds. That’s one of the reasons the "ceiling obscured" terminology describing a low, indefinite ceiling on the old sequence reports was replaced with vertical visibility in the newer Metar format. Nil visibility is just as unlikely to occur. After all, when was the last time you really couldn’t see the hand in front of your face? In fact, and even though it might be legal, we can’t support attempting a takeoff in less than at least a few hundred feet of visibility. So, what we’re really talking about here are low-visibility takeoffs.

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