Virgin Aborted Takeoff–Etc…

Monday, September 23, 2013
By George Hatcher

A Virgin Airlines flight taking off from Canberra aborted takeoff to avoid an incoming flight viewed by other passengers crossing in front of them to the left. Noteworthy is a report that the Virgin Airline pilots hit the brakes when ATC said “Actually, stop, because we’ve decided we’ll let this other aircraft land first and then you can take off.” Another non-collision is a good thing; as nerve-wracking as a rejected take-0ff can be, obviously it’s better than the alternative.

Boeing studies indicate one in 2000 takeoffs are aborted, though early rejected takeoffs may not always be reported.

A 1992 Takeoff Safety Training Aid Aid by the FAA says that

  • More than half the RTO accidents and incidents reported in the past 30 years were initiated from a speed in excess of V1.
  • About one-third were reported as occurring on runways that were wet or contaminated with snow or ice.
  • Only slightly more than one-fourth of the accidents and incidents actually involved any loss of engine thrust.
  • Nearly one-fourth of the accidents and incidents were the result of wheel or tire failures.
  • Approximately 80 percent of the overrun events were potentially avoidable by following appropriate operational practices.

For passengers, the terrors of flight are certainly eased when there is some explanation to go along with the crisis. Perhaps a lack of narration can be forgiven if the pilot has his hands full averting a would be crisis. Still, a couple of word scan be very comforting and enlightening.

Personally, I can say this:

Molly and I experienced a aborted takeoff from Athens.

We were past the half way mark for sure and later were told the pilot had a warning light.

The plane came to a screeching halt taking maybe 45 seconds or more to bring it to a halt.

It is a scary situation, especially since the crew in the cockpit are dealing with whatever needs to be handled and we passengers are told NOTHING.

Maybe daredevils and roller-coaster enthusiasts would get a kick out of it, but it was a kick I’d have just as well gone without.

The plane was filled with people. We all weathered it pretty darn well. I heard no screams or crying, but they’d have had to be pretty loud, because my own heartbeat drowned out everything else. I’m sure there were a lot of rapid heartbeats that moment in that plane.

But I am here now, thanks to that pilot and crew handling a situation they might not even have called a crisis.

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