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In the last chapter we looked at how the weight and balance of the plane is critical to being able to fly in a controlled manner.

Today we'll look at another critical set of numbers - takeoff data. In a heavy jet we don't just "kick the tires and light the fires". Before we go fly we make sure we can safely get off the ground with the runway we have to work with.

This is critical stuff because we're trying to accelerate a couple hundred thousand pounds (or more) up to race-car speeds and we've only got mile and half or so to do it in.

Today we have computer programs that do most of the work for us, but we still have to know what the numbers are telling us.

Back in my prehistoric B-52 days, we had to know how to work takeoff data using a huge binder full of charts and a pencil. You'd trace a line on a graph, get a number, use that number on the next chart and so on. Compounding your errors all the time. The thickness of your pencil might make a 5 knot difference in takeoff speed.

Today we have a laptop computer in the cockpit which will calculate this for us, and probably more accurately than I could do it. During our pre-flight checks we calculate our takeoff data and then double-check it.

First off we need to know a few things. Like what runway we're going to takeoff from. To get that information we get the ATIS (Automated Terminal Information Service) either over the radio or over our datalink. This will give us the current weather, runways in use and other nice to know information like a taxiway being closed.

Then we start plugging numbers into the computer:

RUNWAY - The computer has a database of the runways we use so it knows how long they are, how high up they are (elevation), what direction they face and if they slope up or down. Taking off uphill will take more runway than downhill. If I'm not sure which runway they may send us off I'll calculate data for more than one.

WIND - Taking off into the wind is always better. It might sound counter intuitive, but a headwind is free airspeed, and we know that airspeed is what makes the wings fly.
Take this to its extreme and it will make more sense - with a 150 knot headwind we could hover (except I don't want to fly in any weather that can produce 150 knot headwinds!). We can takeoff with a tailwind, but no more than 10 knots is allowed and we'll use more runway.

TEMPERATURE - Colder is better. Cold air is denser than warm air. The engines produce more thrust with denser air. Denser air also gives the wings more to work with.

PRESSURE - This is the current barometric pressure. What we use is the local altimeter setting in inches of mercury (US) or Hectopascals (Europe). "Standard" pressure is 29.92 inches of mercury in case you want to amaze your friends the next time the Weather Channel is on.

Using those numbers the computer will calculate the DENSITY ALTITUDE, which is an important number (except the computer doesn't show me what it is, go figure). A high density altitude means that the air is very thin. That means less air molecules going through the engine to make thrust. Since those air molecules are further apart (less density), we'll need a much higher speed across the ground (ground speed) to get enough of those little guys across the wings to produce lift.

This gets really important at "hot and high" airports. Taking off from Bogota (8,300 ft elevation) in the summer is an experience.

WEIGHT - A heavier plane will accelerate more slowly and will need a higher airspeed to fly, as we've learned in earlier chapters (see how this all comes together). It will also be more difficult to stop if we need to reject the takeoff (more on that later).

CG - Center of Gravity. This determines what our stabilizer trim will be set at for takeoff. This determines how much pitch control we'll have at rotation. Too far forward and we might not be able to pull the nose off the runway. Too far back and it might try to fly before we're ready. We need that Goldilocks "just right" setting.

Runway Condition - A wet or icy runway would definitely affect our stopping distance if we need to reject. A slush or snow covered runway might also affect our acceleration.

Climb profile - We have two standard climb profiles we can do. The one we normally use has us climb to 1000 feet with takeoff flaps and then clean up the airplane,  accelerate to 250 knots and climb at 250 knots to 10,000'. This is our most fuel efficient climb because we get the flaps up fairly early. It also gets us up to speed and away from the runway quicker so other planes can take off behind us.

Standard Climb Profile
Some airports, however, are very noise sensitive. In those cases we will climb with takeoff flaps until 3000' and then accelerate. At 1500' we'll reduce our power from takeoff thrust to climb thrust (less noise). What this does is keep us closer to the airport until we get up higher. We're still flying over your house at 3:00 AM (sorry) but at least we're 3000 feet up instead of 1000 feet. Let me guess, the realtor showed you that house on a day we were using the other runway.
Noise abatement climb profile - for people who should know better than to buy a house near the airport.
Almost done. The last thing we plug in is any item that might affect the ability of the airplane to stop or go. Let's say we have a thrust reverser not working. No big deal, I flew around for 20 years without them, but it does affect our stopping distance so it goes into the mix.

OK, hit "Enter" and the computer spits a bunch of numbers at me:

Takeoff EPR - This will be our thrust setting. If you remember from when we talked about the engines this is called Exhaust Pressure Ratio. We don't always use maximum power for takeoff. If we can get away with using less thrust and still have adequate performance, it's easier on the engines. A reduced thrust setting also makes the plane easier to control if we lose an engine because there isn't as much asymmetric thrust.

Nominal N1 - Another engine related number. Since we're using EPR to set thrust, the N1 (actual RPMs of the fan) is a "common sense" check to make sure the EPR probes are working properly. Back in 1982 an Air Florida 737 ended up in the Potomac because their EPR probes were iced up and gave them false readings.

Flap setting - More flaps gets us off the runway sooner but hurts our climb performance once we're airborne. In the 757 we normally use flaps 5 (degrees) for takeoff but we can go up to flaps 20.

Trim - Stabilizer trim setting. We set this before takeoff and validate it as part of our before takeoff checklist.

V1 - This is an important number. This is our "go no-go" speed. If we lose an engine prior to V1 we need to stop, because we won't be able to accelerate to takeoff speed on the remaining engine in the runway available. After V1 we need to continue the takeoff, because we wouldn't be able to stop in the remaining runway. We set a "bug" on our airspeed indicator to V1.

Would you ever reject a takeoff after V1? Only if something really catastrophic happened. Taking the plane into the air would have to be worse than running it into a ditch somewhere past the end of the runway. Jets are made to GO, and for most things I'd take it into the air.

VR - Rotation speed. This is the speed at which we bring the nose up for takeoff. Too soon and we won't accelerate as quickly (the plane is acting as an air brake) too late and we use more runway. VR is always greater than or equal to V1. Stopping isn't a factor once we rotate because we'll be flying.

There's a little technique involved here. You don't want to yank the plane off the ground or you might drag the tail, especially with a long plane like a 757. The flight manual says to rotate at 2.5 to 3 degrees per second up to 15 degrees of pitch. So rotation should take about a 5 or 6 count.

We set our second "bug" at VR.

V2 - Single engine climb speed. If we lose an engine on takeoff, we climb at this speed (or faster if we've got it) until we're high enough to speed up and retract the flaps. V2 is always higher than VR. If both engines are working we'll climb at V2+15 (in the 757).

We set the third bug at V2.

Normal takeoff and rotation
A couple other speeds that I don't see but the computer takes into account are  VMCG (min control speed ground) and VMCA (min control speed air). If we lose an engine our speed needs to be high enough that we have sufficient flight controls to keep the plane going straight.

This kills a lot of pilots of light twins. They lose an engine, get below VMCA, and the plane flips over on its back. There's a saying about light twins - the second engine just carries you to the crash site.

Engine Out Acceleration Altitude - Usually 1000 feet above the airport. If we lose an engine this is where we'll level off and accelerate.

Climb gradients - Some departures require extra climb performance because there may be obstacles. Places like Reno that have mountains around them tend to have required climb gradients. These are sometimes given in feet/nautical mile or as a percentage. The 757 can usually double or triple the required climb gradient (I love this plane!) but we check just to make sure.

Flap speed(s) - Each flap setting has a minimum maneuvering speed. On a normal 757 takeoff we're going to set airspeed bugs for flaps 5, flaps 1 and flaps up (clean). After we get airborne and accelerate we'll bring the flaps up "on schedule".

Vref - Reference speed. This is actually an approach speed. If we have to come back around and land in a big hurry we may not have time to look this up so calculate it before takeoff.

Now what if the computer tells us we can't take off? We have a few options:

1. Find a longer runway. Maybe we're not using the longest runway available at this airport.

2. Use Max takeoff power instead of reduced thrust. We don't like to use it but it's there if we need it.

3. Turn the air conditioning off. Yes, really. The air conditioning works off bleed air from the engines' compressors. We only have so much bleed air and we can use some of it to run the air conditioning or we can send it all out the tailpipe as thrust. Once airborne we can turn the A/C back on. We had to do this in the 727 sometimes because it was a little underpowered.

4. Lighten the load. We really don't want to do this, but we could offload some freight or some fuel (if we have extra) to make the plane lighter.

So what happens if we lose an engine on takeoff? This is a very critical event so we practice it a couple times a year in the simulator.

If our speed is below V1 we'll reject the takeoff. We'll use maximum braking, spoilers and the thrust reverser on the remaining engine to stop.

If our speed is above V1 we'll accelerate to VR, rotate a little bit less than a normal takeoff and then climb at V2 to V2+15 (if we have extra speed we keep it).

We'd prefer not to turn, but if we have to we can only use 15 degrees of bank with our speed at V2.

The old saying about "don't turn into a dead engine" doesn't really apply to jet airliners. If we have to turn into a dead engine to avoid a mountain - guess what.

Once we get to 1000' we level off and accelerate. We're probably coming back to this airport and landing, so we may leave the flaps at 5 while we come around the pattern. If we need to go to another airport for some reason we'll bring the flaps up.

The main difference from a normal takeoff is the plane obviously won't climb as well and we need to hold rudder into the good engine to keep us going straight. Other than that it's not a big deal.

Now if we're someplace like Reno or Bogota that whole "not climb as well" thing can really bite you. That's why we have a special procedure to fly if we lose an engine.

Engine Out Procedure
As you can see, Reno is surrounded by mountains, some quite high. One of the pilots will normally have this chart out for the takeoff.

It looks complicated but it's really just "turn left and fly up the valley".

If we can see outside we'll just avoid the big rocks by looking out the window, but we might have to fly this in the weather. One important point is that this procedure is specific to our aircraft and our airline so Reno approach control has no idea of what this looks like. If we lose an engine and I tell Reno "We're flying the engine out departure" they're just going to say "Huh?"

If we lose an engine we'll tell them something like "We've lost an engine and we're turning left up the valley". That lets them know what we're doing and also that we're kind of busy right now and we'll get back to them when we have things sorted out.

Originally posted to Major Kong on Mon May 13, 2013 at 11:10 AM PDT.

Also republished by Kossack Air Force, Aviation & Pilots, and Central Ohio Kossacks.

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Comment Preferences

  •  I always have told people that an airplane (19+ / 0-)

    wants to fly. After looking at this Stinson trying to take off, I am not so sure.

    Rudeness is a weak imitation of strength. - Eric Hoffer

    by Otteray Scribe on Mon May 13, 2013 at 11:23:12 AM PDT

  •  The crew of this Ilyushin IL76 (25+ / 0-)

    must have had very sharp pencils when they crunched the numbers. Hot day, no wind, full load for 11 hour flight.

    Rudeness is a weak imitation of strength. - Eric Hoffer

    by Otteray Scribe on Mon May 13, 2013 at 11:29:57 AM PDT

  •  Fascinating reading. (19+ / 0-)

    I knew it was complicated, but didn't realize just how much so.  Since you're dealing with take-offs, maybe you can explain what happened to my wife and me on a Cathay Pacific flight between Singapore and Bangkok.

    This happened in the summer of 1985.  We were in a C-P L-1011, and had taken off.  It was a bit misty -- not bad, just tropical -- and had been airborne just over eight minutes (I know because I used to set the timer on my watch at lift-off because I wanted to know actual air time.).  Suddenly, the pitch of the engines lowered and we heard a sort of low-pitched roar all the while we felt as if something were pushing us down.  I got the impression that the engines didn't have as much air to bite into (if I can describe it that way) as it should have had.  Looking out the window, we also appeared to be losing altitude rather quickly and felt as if the aircraft were being pushed downward by some kind of very strong pressure. Shortly thereafter, we felt the aircraft quickly accelerate, and we began climbing at a much sharper angle than usual. Although I didn't have the presence of mind to ask the captain on arrival in BKK about what had gone on -- and Cathay's captains were always at the door to bid passengers good-bye -- but I've always wondered if we had been hit by downward wind-shear. Justified or not, we both felt that if it had happened at two or three minutes after take-off, we might not be here to tell the story.  

    -7.13 / -6.97 "The people never give up their liberties but under some delusion." -- Edmund Burke

    by GulfExpat on Mon May 13, 2013 at 11:34:45 AM PDT

  •  I used to live in a very affordable apartment (18+ / 0-)

    Near the beach in San Diego because every day at exactly 6:58, I'd be rumbled out of bed as aircraft after aircraft took off out of the queue.

    SAN has a strict 7:00am curfew(strict that they shave by about 3 minutes). I never once used my alarm clock while living there.

    They seem to have solved that issue with the expansion of John Wayne airport, where it feels like you're climbing straight up, and then they cut the engines: they're not, of course.

    But I find it pretty entertaining how the Captain explains exactly what will happen; then the Disneyland tourists onboard panic  through the whole funky takeoff because they weren't listening.

    I do love this diary series! Passengers just get into big metal tubes, having no clue how they work. If they understood how aircraft fly, I think we could decrease the number of Xanax per passenger.


    (Well, for most destinations anyhow!)

    I am so looking forward to your landings diary. Will you be mentioning JNU in bad weather and short strips like SAN?

    © grover

    So if you get hit by a bus tonight, would you be satisfied with how you spent today, your last day on earth? Live like tomorrow is never guaranteed, because it's not. -- Me.

    by grover on Mon May 13, 2013 at 11:36:40 AM PDT

    •  I've flown in and out of John Wane airport (18+ / 0-)

      They have an incredibly funky departure that does require a noticeable power reduction.

      We have to use a special "Quiet Power" setting for part of the departure that we don't use anywhere else that I know of.

      They also have noise sensors around the airport and if you trip one the company can get fined.

      If the pilot's good, see, I mean if he's reeeally sharp, he can barrel that baby in so low... oh you oughta see it sometime. It's a sight. A big plane like a '52... varrrooom! Its jet exhaust... frying chickens in the barnyard!

      by Major Kong on Mon May 13, 2013 at 11:47:00 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Sounds a bit like National Airport in DC (9+ / 0-)

        Where I know pilots have to obey noise restrictions AND avoid flying over restricted airspace for the White House and Capitol when taking off to the north of the airport.

        A government that denies gay men the right to bridal registry is a facist state - Margaret Cho

        by CPT Doom on Mon May 13, 2013 at 11:59:25 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  I've watched that maneuver from (4+ / 0-)

          the Mall.  Scary.  It seems like someone laid out one of the runways (1/19) using the Washington Monument as an aiming point.  The plane's clawing for altitude, then he's got to cut power and execute a left turn to clear the memorial and reflecting pool and then get out over the river and get out of Dodge.

          “that our civil rights have no dependence on our religious opinions, any more than our opinions in physics or geometry.” Thomas Jefferson

          by markdd on Mon May 13, 2013 at 01:43:53 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  I used to fly in and out of National (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          twice or more a month.  In the earliest days of "noise abatement," I was flying with a new colleague when the engine pitch declined markedly.  As soon as I finished telling her that we were going back, the captain said, "Ladies and gentlemen, we've just been ordered to throttle back if you can believe that on a climb out...Please don't be alarmed..."  I was startled and amused to realize how well he understood the nature of his passengers and their ability to note the novelty.

          Since the aggrandizement industry grafted Captain Video's name onto that airport I have refused even to pick up guests there.  However, since it is among the world's most unsafe airports, exists entirely for the convenience of the nation's elites, is regularly "improved" at great (and overrun) cost, it hardly is inappropriate that it bear that additional name tho I refer to it either as National or Howdy Doody.

      •  I just flew out of there (10+ / 0-)

        this past Friday. Not on a jet though. It was a B-17. I was disappointed we weren't allowed to bomb Newport.

      •  Just an FYI (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        When I was a student at UC-Irvine (next to John Wayne), my Air Force Retired father was asked by Orange County Transportation Dept to figure out how to deal with the "noise problem".  This was a great disdress to me since I moved to SoCal to get away from the parents who were at the time retired to Novato (next to Hamilton Field (NorCal).  The moved to SoCAl to undertake the challenge!  Turns out the John Wayne's runway ends at some of the most expensive real estate in the world (Newport Beach).  After several years of taking decibel measure from noise sensors around the airport, my father designed the short field takeoff procedure that is used today.  Noise sensors, roller coaster ride, and "quiet" power ... you can thank my father!

    •  I've read that landing in SAN is actually... (3+ / 0-) of the more complex landings, not to mention it's like landing in the bottom of a cereal bowl!

      The road to Hell is paved with pragmatism.

      by TheOrchid on Mon May 13, 2013 at 12:58:11 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  I enjoy these diaries. Thank you (11+ / 0-)

    "Maybe we should march on the campus of the electoral college and occupy it until they change their vote"--some wingnut, Worldnetdaily

    by chicago minx on Mon May 13, 2013 at 11:37:57 AM PDT

  •  One of my favorite parts of (17+ / 0-)

    flying through Burbank Airport is admiring all the Fly Quietly! signs.

    This used to be my home airport, once upon a time. I'm sure it's hellish to fly in and out of there (this is the short runway that used to end in a gas station... until a Southwest plane ended up a few feet from the pumps)... but I always feel warm and fuzzy here, even though now I'm just passing through. ;-)

    Fry, don't be a hero! It's not covered by our health plan!

    by elfling on Mon May 13, 2013 at 11:47:41 AM PDT

  •  cant wait for the landing's diary (8+ / 0-)

    especially National Airport in DC.

  •  Wow, I love your diaries (10+ / 0-)

    So much detailed information about one of my favorite subjects, airplanes.  I love flying and am fascinated by the whole thing.  I actually hoped to be an air force pilot when I was a kid, but having to start wearing glasses at the ripe old age of 6 put an end to that dream!!

    Tipped, tipped and rec'd enthusiastically!!

  •  In Phoenix back in June 1990 I believe... (8+ / 0-)

    the temperature hit 122F and IIRC, flights at Phoenix Sky Harbor were grounded due to the temperature being higher than the charts went for the calculations required for takeoff. Would this still happen now that everything is done by computer?

    Just another faggity fag socialist fuckstick homosinner!

    by Ian S on Mon May 13, 2013 at 12:18:48 PM PDT

  •  You can watch live as he returns to Earth (0+ / 0-)

    CBC Television live link

    Safe return, Commander!

    "If you can't take their money, eat their food, drink their booze and then vote against them, you have no business being up there."

    by Betty Pinson on Mon May 13, 2013 at 12:52:24 PM PDT

  •  Back in the Day (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    lazybum, foresterbob, BlackSheep1

    as a young Airman in the USAF (late '60's) I flew home from Philadelphia (McGuire AFB) to Northern Kentucky/Cincinnati (CVG) very often on four day breaks.  Many wild rides into and out of CVG in those days.  One trip involved several different legs because of weather (Philly to  Pitts back to Philly to CVG back to Philly, then a verrrrryyyyyyyyyyyyy  sssssssslllllllllllowwwwwwwwww  descent  into CVG).  I had a window seat.  White knuckles for everyone during that descent!  Then, all of a sudden, I saw the tops of trees out my window and dense woods about ten feet below the plane - all of a sudden  - immediate panic climb straight up (never had I seen such a steep ascent/takeoff before or after in any kind of plane).  There was total silence (nothing from the captain or crew - all the way back to Philly - where our flight originated).  That was scary and caused me to be jittery for a while whenever I landed at CVG.  The one runway was perched on top of the edge of a hill and if the plane was too low in altitude - it would have been disastrous.  Still - it was exciting.

    Oh and I saw a civilian airliner break in half when the pilot accelerated on an icy runway while turning to begin takeoff - this was on a freezing winter day at McGuire AFB.  Cranes had to come and take away the wreck.

    •  Landing at Yeager airport in Charleston, WV (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      is similarly exciting. There they just flattened the top of a mountain, so coming in is a little bit like arriving at an aircraft carrier. One moment you are a few hundred feet up; the next moment the wheels touch the pavement. Very invigorating.

  •  Living on southern approach to DCA. (5+ / 0-)

    Once a frequent passenger, now too old and poor.  Enjoy this diary series greatly.

    And wondering why I heard every aircraft heading ~0deg cut their engine speed overhead, realized they were approaching DCA and the fun began.

    Do the approach vectors depend at all on the layout of the Potomac River and the Port Tobacco River -- or is that just convenient?

    Watch hours of near-real time radar of aircraft approaching DCA (or BWI or IAD neighbors), but would love to see takeoff-landing real time. Current feed drops out below ~800ft, would love to see more.

    Could anyone point me to an online source?


    (-7.62,-7.33) Carbon footprint 12.6 metric tons. l'Enfer, c'est les autres.

    by argomd on Mon May 13, 2013 at 12:54:58 PM PDT

    •  Exactly (9+ / 0-)

      The DCA approaches and departures follow the Potomac because just about anything else you might fly over is restricted airspace.

      I feel like I'm playing "You bet your license" every time I go into that airport.

      If the pilot's good, see, I mean if he's reeeally sharp, he can barrel that baby in so low... oh you oughta see it sometime. It's a sight. A big plane like a '52... varrrooom! Its jet exhaust... frying chickens in the barnyard!

      by Major Kong on Mon May 13, 2013 at 01:47:17 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Really? I'm surprised to hear that... (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        Is the 'oversight' of approach and departure paths indeed that strict?  Jane Q. Publique here is watching, but are the feds so worried about danger to parts of D.C. that they don't just reduce usage of DCA?  Very curious....

        Always thought the only reason DCA stayed open was faster service for congresscritters and their ability to avoid public scrutiny thereby.  I'm not cynical. Not a bit.

        (-7.62,-7.33) Carbon footprint 12.6 metric tons. l'Enfer, c'est les autres.

        by argomd on Wed May 15, 2013 at 11:38:03 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Thanks for the diary! Question for you: (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    (and it's a bit specific, apologies) - I fly as a passenger out of Newark NJ frequently.  When taking off southbound (final destination, west coast), the pilots always do this little dance: a few seconds after takeoff, they bank the plane left, as if they're heading out over the harbor.  A few seconds after that (maybe 30 or so), they bank the plane right to the approximate heading of our west coast destination.  I'm always wondering if they're first banking out of the way of incoming traffic, then banking right once they've gained enough altitude to avoid those inbound planes.  Any thoughts?

    Anyway, very interesting diary - thanks for posting.

    The road to Hell is paved with pragmatism.

    by TheOrchid on Mon May 13, 2013 at 12:56:04 PM PDT

    •  Then again, I can't imagine... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      ...they'd have incoming traffic and outbound traffic pointed at each other, so there must be another reason they do this.

      The road to Hell is paved with pragmatism.

      by TheOrchid on Mon May 13, 2013 at 01:03:17 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Not sure why (4+ / 0-)

      I've flown that departure many times.

      When departing RWY 24L or 24R it has you make a noticeable jog to the left for a couple miles before turning right.

      I'm guessing it's for noise since there aren't any real obstacles down that way.

      If the pilot's good, see, I mean if he's reeeally sharp, he can barrel that baby in so low... oh you oughta see it sometime. It's a sight. A big plane like a '52... varrrooom! Its jet exhaust... frying chickens in the barnyard!

      by Major Kong on Mon May 13, 2013 at 01:53:54 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Now that I look at a map, I think you're right... (0+ / 0-)

        ...looks like the takeoff route follows the Arthur Kill between NJ and Staten Island for a ways, likely, as you mentioned, for noise reduction.

        The road to Hell is paved with pragmatism.

        by TheOrchid on Mon May 13, 2013 at 02:19:40 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  This is ground contol to Major Kong (7+ / 0-)

    Thanks for your detailed flying diaries - from my heart - as a veteran  of the USAF ('60's & '70's) and as one who has flown all over the world - and as one who relishes the memories and thoughts that are recalled when I focus on that wonderful & exciting time of my life.  I was in the middle of everything - NATO HDQT's Belgium, McGuire AFB, Charleston AFB, Bien Hoa AB, Vietnam and other TDY's.  It was a wondrous time.

  •  Worked for years as a reporter in Utah (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Otteray Scribe, Simplify, foresterbob

    and regularly covered the crash-on-takeoff incidents involving small planes at the airport just north of Salt Lake in the summer--July and August especially.

    The airport in North Salt Lake was popular with general aviation pilots--small airport, still close to Salt Lake, etc. etc. It attracted pilots from across the country and, sometimes, from other countries because of its access to the metro Salt Lake area.

    Unfortunately, some of them overloaded their planes and underestimated the effects of the airport's altitude and thin air during the hot summer months. Crashes were pretty common, some of them fatal.

    I recall one pilot from Germany flying a rented Cessna who took on a full fuel load with his wife and two kids on board, plus all their luggage (they were headed to Yellowstone/Jackson area). Crashed and killed the whole family.

    Always hated covering plane crashes but did a number of them, ranging from the small planes to F-16s from Hill AFB, just up the freeway.

    When atlatls are outlawed, only outlaws will have atlatls.

    by wheeldog on Mon May 13, 2013 at 01:05:09 PM PDT

    •  Forgot to add: (4+ / 0-)

      I've been enjoying your posts a lot, Major.

      Between you and Short Finals I've been feeding my airplane appetite regularly.

      When atlatls are outlawed, only outlaws will have atlatls.

      by wheeldog on Mon May 13, 2013 at 01:06:22 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Lived in Colo Spgs (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      RiveroftheWest, foresterbob

      for many years, and there were a lot of "nose gear collapse" accidents on takeoff at COS. (Last I checked, about half the accidents there).

      That always amused me, in a horrible sort of way -- it's what happens when someone decides to overload the plane, then rotate it when it looks like it's going fast enough, climbs out of ground effect, and then mushes or stalls back in.

      Being > 6,000' MSL, actual takeoff speeds are > 10% higher, and climb rates are much slower. Putting the nose up to the normal climb attitude will slow you down in a hurry.

      The good thing about these accidents was they usually weren't fatal.  Just expensive.

  •  I just want to offer a heartfelt thanks (9+ / 0-)

    I've been following your diaries from the start of this series and before.  I want to give my utmost gratitude for actually helping me with my fear of flying.

    I never was scared of flying, and then for some reason (I recognized what it was about but I'm still unsure of why suddenly it manifested) I was terrified of flying.

    Two years ago before going on a vacation trip to Las Vegas, I literally did not eat for 3 days prior to my trip because I was so nervous that I had no appetite.  I hyperventilated the entire first leg (PHL > ORD), and that's a short flight.  Wasn't much better on to LAS.

    For my trip to Turkey I took one benzodiazepine which helped greatly, but I didn't want to have to rely on that forever more.

    Part of my fears stemmed from a "lack of control" (as opposed to driving, even though driving is WAY more dangerous than flying) as well as me not knowing how the hell a huge aircraft can roll 30+ degrees on banked turns and not stall and crash. =P

    But from reading your diaries, I've been able to learn about the physics of flying, and it really has calmed me down a lot.

    Thanks so much Major Kong, and to the skies!

    It is done. Four More Years.

    by mconvente on Mon May 13, 2013 at 01:17:41 PM PDT

  •  Longest takeoff roll I ever saw (6+ / 0-)

    Was when I was doing traffic management in the tower at O'Hare. Runway 32R—a Korean Air 747 bound for Seoul nonstop, and apparently fully loaded. It used every bit of of that runway's 10,000'.

    I'm absolutely certain the Major has his own long takeoff roll tales to relate.

    Another one that was interesting—most of the familiarization flights I took as a controller involved flying out of O'Hare and similar long runway airports. I sat in the jump seat, just behind the pilot, and routinely experienced rotation only a third or so down a 10,000' runway.

    One time I took a trip out of Midway, where the runways are not nearly so long (the longest ≈6,500'). We started our takeoff roll and kept rolling and rolling, and I saw the REIL (runway end identifier lights) getting closer and closer. I'd never experienced that. Finally, at what I considered the last possible moment, we rotated and got out of Dodge. Not dangerous, but unexpected due to my previous experiences.

    •  I think you may have misidentified... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Otteray Scribe

      ...the airport lighting.

      REIL are on the approach end and sighted for landing traffic.

    •  My longest T/O roll (12+ / 0-)

      was at Torrejon AB, Spain in May 1796 in a KC-135A. That's the old water wagon Stratobladder. That runway is something slightly in excess of 15,000' long if I remember correctly. We were lead cell leading a five ship cell of tankers to refuel A-7s that were deploying to (or could have been, can't remember for sure, redeploying to the US from) Europe for the annual Reforger exercise. We had an A-7 pilot with us for liason. He was in for a ride.

      Major Kong spoke of the charts and manuals he used to figure takeoff data for the Buff and we were not much different. It is a hideously slow, tedious process. The day's heat had already reached the mid 90s and we were loaded as heavy as the planners thought we could get off the ground for an expected hot day. The day was a bit warmer and the forecast headwind had failed to show.

      The calm winds became a problem. Our procedures required that we assume a two knot tailwind in calm conditions. We were too heavy with the tailwind. Period. Making matters worse the temperature was still creeping up so every time I finished data for the reported conditions I had to refigure. The pressure to do it right while we kept getting later and later didn't help. I must have done 5 or 6 sets before the tower gave us a wind report with a headwind. That's report, not necessarily real, as the limp windsock pointing the wrong direction demonstrated. The Aircraft Commander (A/C) said that was good enough for him so we went.

      (A little note about the water wagon tanker: The water injection is supposed to last two minutes to give you the extra thrust needed to get that fat pig airborne and retract the flaps. Getting the flaps up is important as without the extra thrust it may put you in a position where you can't accelerate to flap retraction speed on dry thrust alone. For this reason the navigator routinely timed the takeoff roll and called "110 seconds of water.")

      My A/C had the foresight to request that the MA1A barrier at the end or the runway be lowered. It is a net like barrier that is a last resort for light fighter aircraft that misses the cable with its hook and are unable to stop. In 15,000' of runway?! Yeah, last resort when having a really bad day. Anyway, it is a good thing he thought of this minor detail. The Spanish might have been less than happy with us taking it with us as a souvenir.

      The roll was very slow developing and we needed some serious airspeed to get that pig airborne. It seemed to never end as the airspeed indicator crept towards the bug. And the once far end of the runway was getting bigger. We rotated in the last 1000 to 1500' and mains came off the runway just after we passed over the painted runway numbers. Henry called "Gear up" just as the nav, Vince, called "110 seconds of water"! WTF? This is going to suck bad.

      The water dutifully ran out passing about 300'. It was like hitting a brick wall. The choice is climb or accelerate but neither is certain and both is out of the question. Some Spanish developer must have thought building high rise apartment buildings on the rising terrain a couple miles off the end of the runway was a great idea. We went by the buildings a few floors below their tops and could see people, with really big big eyes, as we passed. We must have been a sight with those four thunderous engines belching smoke. I know that I would have moved out that night.

      Henry let the speed build when terrain was no longer an issue and had me retract the flaps one notch when we had the required airspeed. The combination of of less flaps and more speed finally made it possible to climb out somewhat normally. It is a takeoff I will never forget.

      I don't remember what our wingmen thought about their experience departing at one minute intervals behind us. I suspect they had as bad or worse a time.

      Time makes more converts than reason. Thomas Paine, Common Sense

      by VTCC73 on Mon May 13, 2013 at 02:22:19 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  My shortest takeoff was a 757 in San Diego. (5+ / 0-)

      The flight was a continuation SAN-LAX following a two hour "productivity break". The captain was one of my favorites. We flew together many, many times on the 757 and later the 747-400. Doug occasionally had his wife on his 757 trips. She was a senior flight attendant who in times of weakness (my theory is lots of begging and/or whining) gave up her cushy international trips to spend quality time with the old guy.

      Suzie was along on this trip which was always fun. Her compatriots, not so much. Suzie was working as lead and had the legendary blonde coworker with her up front in first class. I say legendary because this girl was so dense the others couldn't help but notice. She plays a part in the story.

      (I offer the following in the interest of fairness: What separates the F/As and passengers from the scum of the earth? Maybe I'll tell you later.)

      Anyway, SAN usually uses the west runway. The approach is down a steep hill to a runway shortened by a 900' displaced threshold. This is a part of the runway that is used for takeoff but it's use is prohibited for landing.

      On this day in 1987 we sat at the beginning of the runway watching a long line of rush hour landing traffic. Just our luck, two hours putzing around the terminal waiting for a 30 minute flight before we could start a 20 hour LA layover. Yeah, living the dream, again. But here we sit, waiting with little hope of getting a break.

      Then our break comes in the form of a Southwest jet out at three miles that is too close to the one ahead. Tower asks if we can take an immediate when the guy approaching the numbers clears the runway. There is another approaching five miles so it would have to be quick.

      Doug say's "You betcha!" which I relay. The evil grin as I accept the position and hold clearance is followed by Doug reaching over and pressing the "TO" button on the thrust panel. We only have 10,000# of fuel, the designated company minimum for departure in a 757, and less than 20 passengers so we'd normally do a significantly reduced thrust takeoff. Not today, it is full blower in a minimum weight climbing superstar.

      Doug is on the brakes with the power pushed up past where the bleeds close so he'll get near instant engine acceleration to max takeoff power when we get clearance for the expedited takeoff. Remember that 900' displaced threshold? We're airborne before we get to the end of it! and the beginning of the runway. He rotates straight to 25 degrees nose high and keeps going to 30 as the airspeed continues to accelerate well past our climb speed. The flaps come up following a slight pitch decrease and we level at 10,000', our cleared altitude as the little aircraft symbol on the nav display touches the end of the runway. It almost takes longer to read that than to do it.

      Tower sends us to SoCal departure and my smart ass takes over as I ask if that was expedited enough. He says, "I wish everyone could do that!"

      Oh remember Miss Notsobright? Suzie called us, laughing so hard she can barely talk, to say that our girl is piled up in a ball on the floor at the first class bulkhead. She hadn't properly tightened her lap belt and had submarined out of her jumpseat due to the acceleration and steep pitch. Bet she never did that again.

      I've had shorter flights like IAD to DCA, Washington Dulles to Washington National, but none with as amazing a takeoff as that one.

      The answer is the cockpit door.

      Time makes more converts than reason. Thomas Paine, Common Sense

      by VTCC73 on Mon May 13, 2013 at 05:02:23 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Weight and Balance? Take/Landing off data? (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Otteray Scribe, jwinIL14

    Paper and pencil will always do the job, along with the Speed Cards, but really, I {heart} ACARS.

    ACARS is what we use in the passenger business to get takeoff and landing data for our specific aircraft, at any airport that we fly to/from.  It's more accurate than the Weight and Balance forms and faster too since most of us are out of practice at doing those forms regularly (I used to have to them daily at one airline I worked for a few years ago) and possibly delaying departure when the rampers take a long time getting the bag sheet to us.  

    Speed Cards show us take off and landing speeds for various configurations of weight and temperature/altitude so we are alway able to safely fly the aircraft with both engines and with one engine inoperative, as well as go-around speeds if needed.  


    A celibate clergy is an especially good idea, because it tends to suppress any hereditary propensity toward fanaticism. -Carl Sagan

    by jo fish on Mon May 13, 2013 at 02:34:37 PM PDT

    •  I assume the dispatcher runs the numbers? (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Otteray Scribe, jwinIL14, BlackSheep1

      If our EFB (Electronic Flight Bag) is inop we can get the numbers sent to us via ACARS but normally we run them ourselves.

      If the pilot's good, see, I mean if he's reeeally sharp, he can barrel that baby in so low... oh you oughta see it sometime. It's a sight. A big plane like a '52... varrrooom! Its jet exhaust... frying chickens in the barnyard!

      by Major Kong on Mon May 13, 2013 at 02:37:15 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  We got our numbers uploaded (0+ / 0-)

        from dispatch which upon acceptance get plugged straight into the FMGEC. The jet figures speeds. Ahhh Airbus! We always did a reasonableness check to verify the correct dispatch input for runway, atmospheric and runway condition, and the correct flight. It is a far cry from 15-20 minutes running charts.

        Time makes more converts than reason. Thomas Paine, Common Sense

        by VTCC73 on Mon May 13, 2013 at 05:09:30 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Still loving the series, MK! (4+ / 0-)

    Not a pilot here, but in love w/ airplanes!

    Let me guess, the realtor showed you that house on a day we were using the other runway.
    This comment reminded me of when my wife and I moved to Enid, OK (about an hour and a half NW of OKC) for my work a couple of decades ago.  It's the home of Vance AFB, which is one of the major jet pilot training bases for the Air Force.  When we were there, you'd see many T-37s (basic trainer) and T-38s (advanced trainer, derived from the Northrup F-5 fighter) in the air almost every day.

    Anyway, when we were house-hunting, the realtor took us to a decent place on the south-central part of town, which as it turned out was right on the glidepath to Vance.  At that house, we could actually hear the throttle adjustments of the landing aircraft...that was a little too close for comfort (and I was starting to get a little nervous about the possibility of landing gear damage to the roof)!  We purchased elsewhere and it worked out OK, as we learned to tune out the jets after a few weeks.

    "Push the button, Max!" Jack Lemmon as Professor Fate, The Great Race

    by bartcopfan on Mon May 13, 2013 at 03:20:50 PM PDT

  •  Well crap, I thought flap just meant flap wings? (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Otteray Scribe, Simplify, BlackSheep1

    Great diaries these MK, kind thanks for the education, and be well good sir.

    Living the austerity dream.

    by jwinIL14 on Mon May 13, 2013 at 04:25:45 PM PDT

  •  In "Stranger to the Ground" (6+ / 0-)

    Richard Bach relates a story from the time he was flying in an airshow display while he was in the service. The plan called for a launch of the whole squadron; Bach and his wingman were the last two to roll. They watched as the planes taking off ahead of them were successively taking longer to get off the ground, as the air over the runway was becoming a concentrated mix of hot jet engine exhaust.  

    If I recall correctly, they were flying F-84s which were notorious for using as much runway as possible before leaving the ground. Bach and his wingman made it, but they didn't waste any time getting their gear up to clear the fence...

    Speaking of whom, Bach is recovering from his near-fatal crash, and it sounds like he can't wait to get back in the air.

    "No special skill, no standard attitude, no technology, and no organization - no matter how valuable - can safely replace thought itself."

    by xaxnar on Mon May 13, 2013 at 06:03:50 PM PDT

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