Runway Safety

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What Is the Ideal Time for a Takeoff Briefing?

October 31, 2011

There's no question that pilots should conduct a thorough takeoff briefing prior to taking the runway, but should that process be conducted even before starting the engines?

Many pilots feel the pre-takeoff briefing should be conducted as near to the point of takeoff as possible, even while taxiing the aircraft to the runway, to keep vital important information such as V speeds and departure headings “fresh” in pilots' minds. They note this approach is what many business aircraft OEM checklists specify, as well.

However, others believe pilots should take the time to thoroughly review all takeoff information earlier in the process, before engine start, to avoid distractions. They note this approach is particularly beneficial during international operations, or when operating from unfamiliar airports and airspace.

“Manufacturers have not yet moved, really, to a system that focuses on ways to minimize tasks while a plane is moving,” said Steve Charbonneau, Secretary of the NBAA Safety Committee and a Gulfstream 550 pilot. “When we release that parking brake, we have to make sure we have no distractions, and are focused on moving the airplane safely.”

When it comes to what information should be reviewed, and when, Charbonneau suggested a hybrid approach to those questions may be best, particularly for operators of larger aircraft. “You must minimize the amount of work that is done while actually moving the airplane,” he explained. “This is absolutely critical as airplanes grow; the larger the aircraft, the greater risk for hitting something while maneuvering on the ramp. There are also more tasks usually on the checklist for those aircraft.”

Charbonneau noted his company's flight department has moved several mission-critical items back from the taxi checklist, to after cockpit setup. “We review our clearance, plan our taxi, and verify our takeoff performance and review contingency plans,” he said. “We feel it's important to conduct this review when there are no passengers onboard, when there's no rush, so the pilots can focus on what they have to do. That's especially the case when reviewing new RNAV departure procedures.

“The only thing done during the taxi,” Charbonneau added, “is review any changes to that plan, or if there are any questions. That's all that's done.”

The NBAA Safety Committee offers Association members guidance on how to establish checklist procedures, based on the specific operational needs of the pilot or organization. This includes recommendations on takeoff checks.