Decision making

We have to make many decisions as pilots. Are we safe and fit to fly? Is the plane airworthy and running well? We consider the weather all along the route to determine if we can make the flight according to the rules whether that’s VFR or IFR. Sometimes its not clear as to the correct decision and when something goes astray we reevaluate the situation and make a new decision.

Take for example a rough running engine during the runup. Maybe the plugs are fouled by lead and we burn it off and then retest the mags. Or what if we abort a takeoff because something isn’t right? It could be slow acceleration, a vibration or something just tells us that something is going as we expect. We should never want to take off and ignore that feeling. For me the subtle cues indicate a problem of some sort or another.

Ask yourself

So what happens after we abort? Do we taxi back and problem solve the issue and maybe try to continue our flight? Or do we taxi back and alert the mechanic or flight school to the issue and cancel the trip?

I raise these questions as I heard this situation at our airport recently. I do not know the pilot and I’m not making any judgments as to whether he made the right decision here. Just raising some things that we all need to consider if this happens to us so we can determine what we may do if we face this. I only know what I heard on the radio and so I don’t have the details this pilot had that led him to make the decisions he did. I ask the same of you and just use this as an opportunity to evaluate your own practices.

Here is the audio I recorded during a training flight with my student. Some transmissions from the pilot involved are blocked out by my speaking to my student before it was apparent there was an issue. Most of the important stuff is there.

I have edited out some of the quiet times to shorten the playing time and there is some time near the end that I let it play in real time so you get a sense of the time involved.

There’s 2 versions below, the video is just out the front of the 152 we were flying in case you want to see the are. The Saratoga is not seen in it. Due to upload size limitations I couldn’t make it all that large.

Audio Version Saratoga Aborted takeoff

Video Saratoga Aborted takeoff

It ended well with a safe landing so that’s always the best outcome.

He attempted a takeoff and had to abort. He then taxied back to investigate and no doubt did another runup to determine the source of the cause.

Here’s the big question.

What would you do at that point? Continue or call it a day and let the mechanic look at it? No judging here, just raising a question.

He determined it was safe as evidenced by his requesting to depart again. We we in front of him and on crosswind when we heard this.

After tower informed he he had smoke coming from the engine we were directed away from the airport so tower had less traffic to deal with and provide a safe environment for the plane to land. It also reduced traffic on the radio the they could both focus.

The pilot elected to land opposite of how he departed and with a slight tailwind. It was the shortest path back to pavement.

Take-offs or always optional but landings are not, so lets be prepared and ready in case we find ourselves in a similar circumstance and need to return for an immediate landing.