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NTSB: Intersection Takeoffs Require Sound Planning

Nov. 21, 2016

A recent NTSB Safety Alert reminded pilots that while they may be able to save time by performing intersection takeoffs, there are also risks involved in not using the entire available runway to depart from an airport.

NTSB: Intersection Takeoffs Require Sound Planning

The advantages of intersection takeoffs include reduced taxi time and shorter departure delays, but intersection takeoffs also can be risky. To ensure a larger safety margin, operators should understand the performance capabilities of an aircraft, and consider the current weather conditions, as well as their experience with using shorter runways.

Those precautions are detailed in the recently issued NTSB Safety Alert 071-17, which outlines the potential hazards of intersection takeoffs. The alert noted that there have been 10 accidents between 2000 to 2015 involving intersection takeoffs, and the safety board recommended that pilots thoroughly plan intersection departures and crews understand what's involved. The advice is especially relevant for general aviation pilots, according to the NTSB, since their aircraft are more suited to perform shorter takeoffs. Review the NTSB Safety Alert.

An example of what can go wrong is the story of a pilot who was flying a Piper PA-32 in a Part 135 operation. He conducted an intersection takeoff using 5,550 feet of an 8,700-foot-long runway. After takeoff, the airplane lost partial power and stalled at a low altitude when the pilot tried returning to the runway. One passenger died and six were injured from the impact. According to the NTSB, the additional 3,150 feet of runway would likely have been sufficient for the aircraft to land straight ahead on the runway.

Just like a land-and-hold-short directive, pilots are not obligated to accept an intersection takeoff when offered by the tower. If accepted, the FAA assumes the pilot has already determined during flight planning that the remaining runway meets the aircraft's takeoff requirements under the current conditions, as noted in 4-3-10 of the Aeronautical Information Manual.

Aviators should understand that any location away from the runway threshold – a point along the runway, at a taxiway or where another runway crosses – a can be an intersection takeoff point. There are no special markings or lights.

"Remember, the time you save may have been the critical time you wish you had to avoid an accident or save your life or others,” said Peter Korns, NBAA's operations project manager. “Giving up that extra runway means you'll be lower and slower during an emergency."