This section addresses important safety risks in General Aviation.
Several risks are addressed.The first sections concern Loss of Control In-flight (LOC-I) across all phases of flight and Loss of Control in Approach and Landing across all phases of flight. This article addresses Loss of Control at take-off.For each type of risk, a fact sheet is provided that describes the seriousness of LOC-I and the factors involved. Safety promotion material provide tips to mitigate the risk and avoid having an accident.
Safety promotion may include safety leaflets and brochures, videos, posters and Safety Information Bulletins (SIBs). Promotional material has been developed by EASA, EGAST, National Aviation Authorities, associations and the GA community, and links to FAA and the General Aviation Joint Safety Council (GA-JSC) in the US have been provided so as to give a holistic overview. Getting acquainted with this material will help you stay safe and enjoy your flight.
Loss of Control at take-off
Loss of control at take-off is often the result of any of the following factors: insufficient control of the aircraft while still on the ground, incorrect rotation airspeed, wrong aerodynamic configuration, wrong loading of the aircraft (or incorrect securing of cargo), crosswind exceeding pilot or aircraft capability or wrong aircraft attitude at rotation and during the initial climb phase.
During take-off, pilots aim to leave the ground, which may lead to inappropriate reactions in the case of unexpected behaviours of the aircraft. For example, in the case of an early stall that may have been the result of an insufficient airspeed, resist the urge to pull on the stick/yoke (with the intent to climb), which would increase the angle of attack and worsen the situation. Pilots should be carefully instructed about the danger of placing the aircraft in the back side of the power curve after take-off.
How important is LOC-I at take-off risk in GA?
Take-off is the most risky phase of flight regarding the risk of Loss of Control in Flight accidents. Data on LOC-I accidents, both fatal and non-fatal, indicate that the highest number of accidents occurs during take-off.
More on risks: GA LOC-I at take-off fact sheet
More information, including accident data and factors involved in LOC-I at take-off, is provided in this GA LOC-I fact sheet.
Taking off safely and successfully
The key of a successful take-off is preparation! Before actually performing your flight, think twice and be sure that you and your aircraft are fully prepared.
Carefully consider the aircraft’s configuration, its weight and balance, the length of the runway, as well as the outside temperature, wind force, direction and variations in these. Review the limitations and performance section of the Aircraft Flight Manual (AFM).
Check weather: Do not bet your life on weather evolution. Make sure that the weather is good enough for performing the flight, while taking into account flight regime (IFR, VFR), experience, aircraft performance, etc. In case of doubt, postpone your flight!
Flight preparation includes the following:
Airfield specificities. Is there any obstacle on the initial climb path? Are you departing from a high altitude aerodrome? Are you operating on a grass runway? Is the runway wet? Is there any specific standard take-off procedure? Remember a grass and/or wet runway will increase friction and thus increase your take-off distance. Moreover, a wet runway will increase your braking distance in the case of an emergency and you may face aquaplaning followed by a potential loss of control on ground.
Take-off distance. Be sure that the runway length (TORA, Take-Off Run Available) exceeds the take-off distance required for your aircraft.
Aircraft weight & balance. Check compliance with the approved limits provided by the aircraft manufacturer. Check seat attachment points and secure all objects to avoid unwanted movements during the acceleration phase, at rotation or during climb.
Wind conditions. Carefully observe wind conditions so as to take-off with a headwind (unless special procedures or circumstances prevent to do so). Be prepared to encounter crosswind or an unstable wind regime (gusts).
Take-off parameters. Review power settings, slats & flaps configuration (if any) and fuel-air mixture control (when applicable), etc. Always refer to the documentation provided by the aircraft manufacturer. If in doubt, do ask a Flight Instructor!
Temperature. The effect of temperature on take-off performance, especially in summer, can be dramatic. Have you heard about density-altitude? Do you know how to calculate it and take its effect into account?
Inspect the aircraft to detect any issue that could endanger the flight and check that the stall alarm is working. Remove covers from pitot tube(s) and static port(s) before flight.
Pre take-off checks
Start your engine(s) and run the engine & power circuit checks, following the corresponding checklist(s), to detect possible malfunctions that could lead to a loss of power at take-off. Taking off with full power is always reassuring! Check that all controls offer free and correct movements and adjust trim to take-off position. Check the braking system: Correct braking performance is necessary to safely stop the aircraft in case of a rejected take-off. And remember: Use the pre take-off check list before taking off!
Pre take-off briefing
Near the holding point, voice the pre take-off briefing. This will increase your preparedness and your ability to manage unexpected situations. Be aware of the take-off airspeed, flaps/slats setting, power settings, target airspeed during initial climb and any specificities of the airfield (e.g. obstacles in the take-off path or urbanisation around the airport) that require special attention. Voice what your flight plan contains after take-off, together with any backup-up plans in case of failure prior to take-off and minor or major failure following take-off. Also, state at which height you will change the slats/flaps configuration and the associated target climb airspeed. Use the corresponding checklist so that you do not miss any important action!
Double check that the approach and runway are free of incoming or outgoing traffic. Use your VHF to announce your intentions (uncontrolled airfield).
Align properly on the runway centreline to initiate the take-off! Accelerate gradually while keeping the aircraft on the centreline. Check for alarms and check that the speed indicator is working and that take-off power is available (as per the indication of the rev counter – RPM, torque, etc.).
Pay attention to the airspeed and aircraft attitude! When reaching the take-off speed, pull gently on the stick/yoke to take-off. Excessive pitch can lead to exceeding the critical angle of attack (AoA), leading to a stall! Control airspeed and aircraft attitude with reference to the horizon (“attitude flying”).
Once airspeed reaches the target initial climb airspeed, wait to reach the minimum safety height to change slats/flaps configuration and target the climb airspeed.
If you plan to turn during climb, keep the bank angle below the reference value suitable for your aircraft type (such as 20°) so that the climb rate doesn’t decrease too much. Further, when performing a turn, the load factor increases and the lift needed to sustain a level flight increases.
Take-off is not a very difficult manoeuvre but it does require preparation, organisation and accuracy. Training with a qualified instructor is a good way to improve skills and gain confidence!
How to prevent LOC-I at take-off accidents?
Always use the guidance provided by the manufacturer for your aircraft and seek advice from a Flight Instructor.
Various Safety promotion products developed by the Agency, in cooperation with externals, or by other organisations, are presented. This list is not exhaustive; you are encouraged to look for additional material on the internet.
It is good practice to exchange flying experiences in your aero-club and in internet forums to learn about what can happen and about conditions specific to your base and destination airfields. Internet forums also provide a platform where aerodynamics, flight mechanics, weather, navigation, flying techniques and other basic subjects can be discussed.