Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Why You Always Prepare For The Worst

I take after my father in a lot of ways, but the two traits that we share that are important to this story are our love of flying and our obsession with planning.

He flew down to Georgia yesterday to go hunting. I was chatting with him this morning before I headed out to work, and he mentioned that he had gone through an RTO, or Rejected Take-Off, on their way out of Louisville yesterday.

Turns out that, on the takeoff run, the airspeed indicator wasn't coming up (it doesn't usually start measuring until about 40-50 knots). Some pilots wouldn't have noticed it until they were airborn, or even at altitude, but good pilots include it in the list of things that have to go right for it to actually be a takeoff.

For the plane my dad flies, the list is usually: Throttles to full, verify power set (make sure the engines are actually running at full), airspeed alive, redline (stall speed), blue line / Vmc (speed of minimum lateral control if one engine were to suddenly fail), rotate (pull back on the yoke to get off the ground), climb established (vertical speed indicator verifies a positive climb), gear handle up, gear lights show up and locked.

Nine items on that list that have to be completed and verified before it actually counts as a takeoff in his mind. Otherwise, it's an aborted landing just waiting to happen.

As it was, they were able to stop the takeoff, taxi off the runway and back to the hangar, and check out the pitot-static system. Turns out that there were pieces of tape over the pitot tubes (which allow air pressure in for the purpose of measuring airspeed) that had been left there by the people who had washed the plane over the weekend. Not a life-threatening circumstance, but something you don't want left on your plane when you're cruising at 290 knots 33,000 feet above the ground.

The tape removed, they restarted the engines, headed back to the runway, and successfully took off and flew to Georgia.

This is one of the many reasons my father is my role model.
posted by S.C. @ 10:17 AM |

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