Point Of Diversion 2 — Takeoff Diversions

If we can spot where a pilot goes wrong on a flight, will it be easier to recognize the same point during our own flights? Last week we heard from a pilot who got in over his head with weather. He learned. Can we?

In Point Of Diversion 1 the pilot approached a developing storm but believed that “VFR conditions should prevail.” What was real and what he thought was real were different. The pilot did take action once reality became apparent by descending and diverting. The FSS had given the pilot a weather report, but that FSS briefer was sitting in an office miles away, not in the airplane facing the storm.

The Point of Diversion (POD) took place when the pilot placed too much emphasis on what the FSS report said instead of looking out the airplane’s window.

POD IN PRACTICE — Learning By Example
Now look at these three accidents involving takeoff PODs. Nobody was hurt in any of these accidents, but each pilot’s diversion should be evident. In each case, there is a point where the pilot’s understanding of the situation becomes very different from what was going on around them.

#1 NTSB Report number: ATL91LA156

The student pilot was performing the takeoff of the return leg on a VFR cross-country flight. At about 55 to 60 knots, he began to rotate, and the stall warning horn activated. The airplane was not reaching flying airspeed, so he reduced the throttle and applied brakes. He was unable to bring the airplane to a stop in the remaining runway surface, and the airplane collided with a tree and a creek bed. The pilot reported no mechanical problems with the airplane, and none were found during the post accident inspection. The pilot, whose total flying time was 21 hours, reported the temperature at the takeoff to be about 100 degrees F.

#2 NTSB Report number: ATL91LA053

The pilot stated that during takeoff, the airplane became airborne, but would not climb or gain airspeed. Subsequently, it was damaged during a forced landing. No pre-accident mechanical problems were reported. An investigation revealed that the aircraft was approximately 175 pounds over its maximum allowable gross weight. The fuel on board the aircraft was gold in color and smelled like auto fuel.

#3 NTSB Report number: ANC96LA024

The pilot was attempting to takeoff and return to Fairbanks, Alaska. He had to taxi up hill for a distance of 1500 feet. He used carburetor heat during his taxi. When he turned the airplane around to line up for takeoff, he noticed fine snow and ice crystals suspended in the air over his intended takeoff area. The pilot turned the carburetor heat off, applied full power, and made the takeoff. When the airplane reached approximately 15 feet above the ground, the engine lost power. The pilot applied carburetor heat and some power was restored. The pilot stated he had to lower the nose to maintain airspeed and the airplane crashed into the trees. The pilot stated he thought the intake screen had become iced during the taxi and takeoff.

Can you see points where these three pilots made decisions without understanding all the facts that surrounded them? Become an accident investigator. Where was the Point of Diversion in each case? If you can spot the POD in these cursory accounts, hopefully you could spot your own POD and avoid an accident.

Explanations of these PODs and more POD scenarios, next week…