Takeoff briefings are one of those things that most pilots are taught when they first learn how to fly, but once they get into flying themselves around, quickly fall by the wayside. There is a reason student pilots are instructed to perform a takeoff briefing before departure. It gets them thinking about what the plan is after they get off the ground and what to do if something goes wrong.
Takeoff briefings are a good habit to get into. Airline crews do a takeoff briefing before every departure, even though they have performed a takeoff in that particular airplane thousands of times. It enhances safety and provides repetition, keeping that knowledge at the forefront of the crew’s minds.
In general aviation, a takeoff briefing should cover what the takeoff procedure is, what the abort plan is, and what the plan after takeoff is.
Most pilots fly the same airplane all the time, so the familiarity with what goes into a takeoff is there. But, habits should be formed to brief the takeoff procedure as part of the takeoff briefing. It doesn’t need to be extensive, just covering the basics of how the airplane is getting off the ground. Something like this:
- Throttle setting (if turbo charged, will full throttle cause an overboost?)
- Rotate speed
- Expected takeoff roll
That’s it. Nothing fancy for the takeoff procedure.
What is the plan if something goes wrong? It doesn’t have to be an engine failure, maybe the engine coughs when full power is added or maybe the engine doesn’t produce peak RPM. Maybe the takeoff roll is longer than anticipated and something doesn’t seem right. Maybe on climb out a door pops open. Maybe the engine fails at 1,000 feet. It’s good to keep the plan in the foreground for what to do if an abnormal or emergency situation takes place.
- Brief the aborted takeoff procedure
- Pick an abort point on the runway based on the expected ground roll
- What is the procedure if the airplane isn’t off the ground by then?
- What is the procedure if the engine quits on the runway?
- Brief the engine failure procedure at low altitude
- If the engine fails over the runway, will you try to land on the runway?
- What altitude would you elect to turn back as opposed to landing straight ahead?
- If the plane is too low to turn back, would you land straight ahead or aim left or right?
- What airspeed will you aim to hold if the engine fails?
- In a Cirrus, what is your minimum parachute deployment altitude?
After Takeoff Plan
After the airplane is off the ground, what’s the plan then? Are you staying in the pattern or departing the area? Do you need to adjust your power at a certain altitude? What altitude are you climbing to? What heading are you going to fly? Is your flight plan in your GPS? This is an excellent time to set up altitude and heading bugs if your airplane is so equipped.
Get in the habit of doing a takeoff briefing before you call the tower or announce your departure. It get’s your mind focused on the task at hand and then what is going to be happening next.