August 2011 Issue

Departure Deviation

Failing to climb and fly the initial leg of a published departure procedure has predictable results.

Pilots and non-pilots alike fret about and measure a flight’s quality by the landing. Yes, landings are important to get right, but takeoffs and initial climb procedures can be just as critical. In fact, I worry about takeoffs more than landings. One of the reasons is a takeoff involves more variables and uncertainties than a landing. As an example, the airplane weighs more than it will the rest of the flight and exhibits its worst performance. For another, we’re accelerating, not slowing down. In fact, we’re trying to go as fast as we can in as short a distance as possible. A third thing is the relatively unknown status of the airplane: How will it feel? Is it loaded correctly? Is it trimmed correctly? Will it perform as expected? What about the local wind and weather—is it what we expected from our preflight briefing and personal observations? If there are obstacles, will we be able to clear them if something goes wrong?

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