Takeoff Configuration

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to insist – to demand sth forcefully, not accepting refusal

to advance – to move forwards

uneventful – not marked by interesting or exciting events (unremarkable/routine)

sequenced – arrange in a particular order

to evolve – to develop gradually

…It was a regular passenger flight out of a major European airport. After pushback, while the pilots were starting the second engine, the captain noticed the push crew walking away from the aircraft back to the gate. There was no gear pin demonstration, nor did the pilots get a salute from the ground crew. Since the captain could not see the gear pin, he directed the first officer to call the company operations and inform them of the situation. So the pilots insisted that they would be waiting for a visual of the pin from the push crew.

While the crew were waiting, they reviewed the instruments data and went on with procedures. At a certain moment, a ground crew came back out, demonstrated the pin, gave a salute and went away. The pilots continued with the control checks, taxied out as usual and went through all the checklist items. Once they were on the runway and cleared for takeoff, the captain advanced the throttles, pressed the TOGA switch, and immediately heard the configuration warning horn.

Both pilots quickly recognized the problem, and the first officer positioned the flaps to the correct detent. Rather than continuing the takeoff from that point, the captain made a decision to taxi forward to the next runway exit and exit the runway. They informed the Tower of their intentions, vacated the runway, discussed the error, ran a complete Before Takeoff Checklist for the second time, made sure everything was in the green, and in a while were back on the runway and cleared for an uneventful takeoff.

It appeared that the pilots simply got distracted by the non-standard push crew actions and a consequent delay so they didn’t trap the error. The normal sequenced flow got interrupted. The captain expected that once the ground crew was clear of the aircraft and they received a visual signal, he would call for appropriate flaps and flight controls check. Instead of the usual, the pilots got focused on getting the ground crew back out. Eventually they failed to initiate a restart of the interrupted standard procedure and the situation evolved into a takeoff configuration warning.

Answer the Questions:

  1. What was the pilots’ very first clue of erroneous performance calculations?
  2. Why did the crew have to perform a go-around?
  3. In what way were the actual performance calculations wrong?

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