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Rejected Take Off
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The situation which follows when it is decided to stop an aircraft during the take off roll.
The Go/Stop Decision
In the event of an engine malfunction, the recognition of a significant abnormality, or an ATC instruction to stop the aircraft during the take off roll, transport aircraft in Performance Category ‘A’ should be able to safely reject the take off if the decision to do so is made at a speed not greater than the correctly calculated decision speed (V1).
A successful rejection should be achieved if the response is immediate and completed in accordance with prescribed procedures (SOPs). After V1, a reject should only be considered if there is a strong reason to believe that the aircraft will not fly.
Depending on Operator SOPs, a call of "STOP" to reject a take off based on stated criteria will usually be able to be made by either pilot. However, in some cases, the action following such a call will be only for the pilot in command to take, regardless of which pilot is PF.
Continuing the Take Off after V1
Once a correctly calculated V1 has been exceeded, the takeoff must be continued and should allow the aircraft to get safely airborne and climb away. This explicitly covers the case of a single engine malfunction or failure up to V1 provided that the prescribed crew actions in respect of that failure are correct. However, there are certain situations (see below) where it may be found at Vr that it is simply not possible to get airborne and there is no effective solution available. In this case there is no option but to reject the take off despite the likelihood that a runway overrun of some sort will result.
The Significance of Speed in respect of the decision to reject a take off
Most aircraft manufacturers specify an airspeed - usually 80 knots or 100 knots - which defines the transition between the low speed and the high speed part of a takeoff roll and represents a change in the expected use of a "stop" call. This speed is usually in the vicinity of the speed where directional control using the rudder becomes effective. The prescribed speed has to be called out by PM from their own airspeed indication and the call must receive a prompt response from the PF. The fact that this call also functions as a validation that both pilots have similar airspeed indications and as a pilot incapacitation check means that the determination of the speed takes all three purposes into consideration.
High Speed RTO
Whilst a successful rejection of take off from V1 is achievable in all but exceptional and very specific cases (see below), it is universally recognised that the closer the speed gets to it, the greater the risk involved in a decision to stop. Therefore, once at high speed, it is usually specified that the takeoff will only be rejected for major malfunctions such as an engine failure or fire - or at the discretion of the pilot in command in the event that a similarly serious situation is perceived. In many modern aircraft types, the annunciation of non-critical alerts during the high speed part of the take off roll and in initial climb is inhibited to preclude unnecessary distraction.
Low Speed RTO
Prior to the prescribed speed check call, it is envisaged that the takeoff will normally be rejected for any significant malfunction or abnormal situation. Within this lower speed range, it is likely that directional control will be largely dependent on use of the nose gear steering system. However, speeds in this range will usually be well below the applicable Vmcg - the speed at which sufficient rudder authority to maintain directional control is available and so it is important for a pilot carrying out any low speed rejected take off to be ready to make any necessary control inputs to the nose gear steering system via the tiller provided.
Tyre Failure on the Takeoff Roll
Tyre failure during the takeoff roll has been the cause of inappropriate decisions to reject a take off. Failure of a tyre will result in a longer than calculated stopping distance due to the loss of braking force on the associated wheel. It also has the potential to lead to additional tyre failure if a high speed rejected take off is then made due to the brake temperatures which a high energy stop will create. One aircraft manufacturer, Airbus, has made a generic recommendation that, for a single tyre failure with no evidence of collateral damage, the takeoff be continued if the speed is greater than V1 minus 20 knots. However, any decision to reject a take off in excess of the speed cross check call which is not mandated in the applicable SOPs should be taken only when there are clear indications that the safety of the flight is at risk if a take off is continued.
Rejected Takeoffs and Runway Excursions
The main reasons why runway excursions occur during rejected take offs can be categorised as:
- the decision to reject the take off is made after V1 and there is insufficient runway length left to come to a stop on it.
- the flight crew actions required to achieve a rejected take off are not carried out in a sufficiently prompt and/or comprehensive manner.
- stopping devices are not used to their full capacity.
- directional control is not maintained during the take off roll.
- it is found at Vr that it is impossible to achieve rotation.
The V1 call must be made in such a manner that the verbalisation is complete as the speed is achieved. Stopping action must be initiated promptly (within 2 seconds) of the reject decision. Stopping devices must be used to their full capability until such time that it is certain that the aircraft will stop before the end of the runway. Unless there is a clear indication that the aircraft will not fly, a reject must not be initiated after V1.
However, for large aircraft, there is usually a significant gap between V1 and Vr so that if, at Vr, it is found impossible to physically achieve rotation, there may be no alternative but to reject the take off. It is this scenario, on limiting runway lengths, which accounts for many of the most serious runway excursions arising from rejected take offs. Often, the problem with rotation is attributed to aircraft total weight or Centre of Gravity being different to that understood by the flight crew, due to differences in the distribution or weight of the actual load and that indicated on the certified load and trim sheet. A similar circumstance may result from take off using incorrect aircraft performance calculations or ASI speed bug settings, although a viable flight crew emergency response to these cases may be available by means of a prompt increase to maximum available thrust/power.
Aircraft Loading procedures must be properly specified, and there must be checks that the aircraft has been loaded in accordance with the documentation supplied to the flight crew. Particular care in is required where the provision of this service is by a contractor and especially so where such a contractor supplies equivalent services to other operators using the same staff, since the contractual requirements of all operators may not be the same. Where flight crews use electronic flight bags (EFBs) to calculate take off performance, special attention should be given to the applied SOP and to crew training to ensure that both crew fully understand EFB use.
Application of SOPs
All the relevant Flight Crew SOPs must be clearly specified and applied, particularly:
- Cross checking take off performance calculations and the corresponding setting of ASI speed bugs.
- Both flight crew must be fully satisfied that the prevailing runway surface conditions correspond to the assumptions which have been made in their take off performance calculations.
- There must be unambiguous requirements governing crew calls of abnormal conditions during the take off roll and the degree to which the aircraft commander then has the discretion to reject or continue the take off.
- There must be accurate calls of standard speeds during the take off by PM and a check that both principal ASIs are indicating the same figure at the designated check speed (usually 80 KIAS or 100 KIAS).
Once robust flight crew SOPs are in place, the most effective way for an Operator to ensure that flight crew are likely to respond to a rejected take off decision and its execution in the expected way is practice. This means ensuring that the plan for both initial and recurrent aircraft type simulator training and assessment includes unexpected scenarios in which a rejected take off may be the only expected response or a judgement call. Both stop-go take off decisions and the response to stop decisions should be covered. These unexpected events should include evidence of malfunctions other than total engine failure - as examples, a transient aberration in the operation of a single engine combined with tyre failure and loss of directional control, unexpectedly slow aircraft acceleration and ATC instructions given after reaching high speeds. The ability to made prompt and rational decisions on stop-go should be trained and validated - evidence of indecision should an indication that more training is required. The 'unable to rotate at Vr' case should also be included, with the cause being variously the wrong take off speeds or thrust set, the effect of a microburst or of the effect of a mis-loaded aeroplane.
Accident and Incident Reports
Runway Excursion Accidents and serious incidents which include Runway Excursion (Overrun on Take Off) as an outcome:
- A320, Basel-Mulhouse-Freiburg France, 2014 (On 6 October 2014, an A320 crew requested, accepted and commenced an intersection takeoff at Basel using reduced thrust performance data based on the originally anticipated full length takeoff which would have given 65% more TODA. Recognition of the error and application of TOGA allowed the aircraft to get airborne just before the runway end but the Investigation found that a rejected take off from high speed would have resulted in an overrun and noted that despite changes to crew procedures after a similar event involving the same operator a year earlier, the relevant procedures were still conducive to error.)
- A343, Bogota Colombia, 2017 (On 11 March 2017, contrary to crew expectations based on their pre-flight takeoff performance calculation, an Airbus 340-300 taking off from the 3,800 metre-long at Bogata only became airborne just before the end of the runway. The Investigation found that the immediate reason for this was the inadequate rate of rotation achieved by the Training Captain performing the takeoff. However, it was also found that the operator’s average A340-300 rotation rate was less than would be achieved using handling recommendations which themselves would not achieve the expected performance produced by the Airbus takeoff performance software that reflected type certification findings.)
- A343, London Heathrow, UK 2012 (On 5 February 2012, an Airbus A340-300 started its takeoff from an intermediate point on the runway for which no regulated takeoff weight information was available and had only become airborne very close to the end of the runway and then climbed only very slowly. The Investigation found that as the full length of the planned departure runway was not temporarily unavailable, ATC had offered either the intersection subsequently used or the full length of the available parallel runway and that despite the absence of valid performance data for the intersection, the intersection had been used.)
- A343, Rio de Janeiro Galeão Brazil, 2011 (On 8 December 2011, an Airbus A340-300 did not become airborne until it had passed the end of the takeoff runway at Rio de Janeiro Galeão, which was reduced in length due to maintenance. The crew were unaware of this fact nor the consequent approach lighting, ILS antennae and aircraft damage, and completed their intercontinental flight. The Investigation found that the crew had failed to use the full available runway length despite relevant ATIS and NOTAM information and that even using rated thrust from where they began their takeoff, they would not have become airborne before the end of the runway.)
- A345, Melbourne Australia, 2009 (On 20 March 2009 an Airbus A340-500, operated by Emirates, commenced a take-off roll for a normal reduced-thrust take-off on runway 16 at Melbourne Airport. The attempt to get the aircraft airborne resulted in a tail strike and an overrun because insufficient thrust had been set based upon an incorrect flight crew data entry.)
- AT43, Madang Papua New Guinea, 2013 (On 19 October 2013, an ATR42 freighter departing Madang had to reject its takeoff when it was impossible to rotate and it ended up semi-submerged in a shallow creek beyond the airfield perimeter. The Investigation found that loading had been contrary to instructions and the aircraft had a centre of gravity outside the permitted range and was overweight. This was attributed to the aircraft operator’s lack of adequate procedures for acceptance and loading of cargo. A lack of appreciation by all parties of the need to effectively mitigate runway overrun risk in the absence of a RESA was also highlighted.)
- B703, Sydney Australia, 1969 (On 1 December 1969, a Boeing 707-320 being operated by Pan Am and making a daylight take off from Sydney, Australia ran into a flock of gulls just after V1 and prior to rotation and after a compressor stall and observed partial loss of thrust on engine 2 (only), the aircraft commander elected to reject the take off. Despite rapid action to initiate maximum braking and the achievement of full reverse thrust on all engines including No 2, this resulted in an overrun of the end of the runway by 170m and substantial aircraft damage. A full emergency evacuation was carried out with no injuries to any of the occupants. There was no fire.)
- B732, Pekanbaru Indonesia, 2002 (On 14 January 2002, a Boeing 737-200, operated by Lion Air, attempted to complete a daylight take off from Pekanbaru, Indonesia without flaps set after a failure to complete the before take off checks. The rejected take off was not initiated promptly and the aircraft overran the runway. The take off configuration warning failed to sound because the associated circuit breaker was so worn that it had previously auto-tripped and this had not been noticed.)
- B737, Southend UK, 2010 (On 21 Nov 2010, a Boeing 737-700 being operated by Arik Air on a non revenue positioning flight from Southend to Lagos with only the two pilots on board carried out a successful take off in daylight and normal ground visibility from runway 06 but became airborne only just before the end of the runway.)
- B738, Manchester UK, 2003 (On 16 July 2003, a Boeing 737-800, being operated by Excel Airlines on a passenger flight from Manchester to Kos began take off on Runway 06L without the flight crew being aware of work in progress at far end of the runway. The take off calculations, based on the full runway length resulted in the aircraft passing within 56 ft of a 14 ft high vehicle just after take off.)
- B738, Oslo Gardermoen Norway, 2005 (On a 23 October, 2005 a Boeing 737-800 operated by Pegasus Airlines, during night time, commenced a take-off roll on a parallel taxiway at Oslo Airport Gardermoen. The aircraft was observed by ATC and stop instruction was issued resulting in moderate speed rejected take-off (RTO).)
- B738, Paris CDG France, 2008 (On 16 August 2008, an AMC Airlines’ Boeing 737-800 inadvertently began a night take off from an intersection on runway 27L at Paris CDG which left insufficient take off distance available before the end of the temporarily restricted runway length. It collided with and damaged obstructions related to construction works in progress on the closed section of the runway but sustained only minor damage and completed the intended flight to Luxor. The context for the flight crew error was identified as inadequate support from the Operator and inadequate airport risk assessment for operations with a reduced runway length.)
- Runway Excursion
- Rejected Take Off: ATC Considerations
- Engineered Materials Arresting System
- European Action Plan for the Prevention of Runway Excursions (EAPPRE) Edition 1.0, January 2013.
Airbus Flight Operations Briefing Notes
Flight Safety Foundation
- Reducing the Risk of Runway Excursions - Report of the Runway Safety Initiative
- Runway Excursion Risk Assessment Tool
- Rejected Takeoff (OGHFA SE)
- Takeoff Weight Entry Error and Fatigue (OGHFA SE)
- ALAR Briefing Note 8.4 - Braking Devices
- ALAR Briefing Note 8.5 - Wet or Contaminated Runways
Ohio State University