Exercise 12E – The Take Off Brief

Exercise 12e –  THE TAKE OFF BRIEF


To reduce ‘startle effect’ by verbalising a taxiway briefing of the action to be taken in the event of a major problem occurring during take-off or after take- off.

To mentally rehearse the emergency action to be taken

To consider areas best suitable for an off airfield landing within the radius of action of the aircraft on take off

To declare an emergency and summon assistance immediately


Pre flight planning

Knowledge of end of runway Take Off  Funnel

Recognizing minor problems that can allow take off to be continued

Knowledge and judgement of accelerate – stop distance and landing distance required

Application of maximum effort braking

Word perfect emergency drill

Knowledge of minimum power to fly the aircraft around the circuit for an emergency return

Risks of operating from a private unlicensed airfield


The Take-Off Brief, sometimes called The Take-Off Safety Brief, is a self briefing you can annunciate to yourself (silently or out loud) before take-off in a single pilot aircraft. When flying dual it can be given verbally to the instructor, who as the aircraft commander, may choose to modify it by stating what action he would ultimately take, if any.

The aim of the Take-Off Brief is to provide a memory jogger and a mental rehearsal of the action you would take in the event of a major problem during the take-off or after take-off. Notice I also said, “during take-off”. The 1950s Tiger Moth syllabus only considers engine failure after take-off! When flying dual it also reduces the chances of both pilots trying to fly the emergency procedure together which could compromise safety and common sense!

Notice also I also said, “major problem”, as I know of at least two incidents were the distraction and over reaction of a door opening on take-off (a minor problem that will not affect the flying capability of the aircraft in most light aircraft) caused the pilot to lose control of the aircraft and end up involving an off runway excursion. Do you know what you will do if a door or hatch opens on take off? It’s always best to consider your options before you run out of them!

The Take-Off Brief for PPL flying is not a new concept (I first introduced at my flying school in 1982!) although surprisingly many flying schools still do not teach this essential action, especially those low standard schools who seem to be stuck in a 1950s time warp! Noticeably these schools also never teach engine failure in any other circuit position other than take-off, perhaps Tiger Moth engines only stopped on take off! Ignorance can be sheer bliss until it all goes quiet downwind!

For a commercial skill test you must give the examiner a take-off safety brief.

The very noticeable and concerning difference between the professional approach to flying training and the ‘Club’ PPL’ approach is the poor attention to abnormal and emergency drills. ‘Tick In The Box’ training (another sure sign of the low standard lazy instructor) may be convenient but it is a grave disservice to the student especially when it’s considered that a PPL pilot that has the appropriate two year recency renewal hours has no mandatory requirement to ever practice or complete any emergency or abnormal retraining after licence issue.

There is no substitute for programmed, comprehensive, relevant and through training of emergency and abnormal drills. The amateur trains till he gets it right, the professional trains till he doesn’t get it wrong! As the captain of a Ryan Air 737 said after a successful abandoned take off at Dublin, which resulted from a Monarch Airbus entering the runway without clearance, “THE TRAINING PAYS OFF”  (they stopped 300 metres short of the Airbus)

Ask yourself if you had an emergency on or after take off would you have rather have verbalised the drill a couple of minutes ago or 5 years ago. Professional pilots give this brief before every take off and they are in regular flying practice! In contrast the PPL holder is seriously disadvantaged by low experience and recency yet most PPL’s never ever consider this essential memory jogger and rehearsal briefing and the main reason they don’t do it is because they were never taught to do it.

Common sense should tell you that if you cannot go through the motions in the relaxed environment of the taxiway you are very unlikely to be able to get it right at 300 feet if the engine stops for real!

Below is a linked AAIB example of a fatal Piper Tomahawk engine failure after take off accident that occurred at Manchester Barton which highlights the need for timely practiced and rehearsed emergency drills. It also highlights how seriously the threat of fire and smoke should be taken during emergency and abnormal training, another area very sadly lacking in PPL training.

It would seem that when the engine stopped the pilot did not take the most important immediate action of all by initially ‘pushing the nose over’. He did however make a Mayday call and appears to have completed some checks but the failure to reduce the angle of attack caused aerodynamic stall and loss of control resulting in ground impact and fire with fatal consequences for the pilot. Interestingly the report says (apart from extensive burns) the pilot and passenger both only suffered minor injuries and the pilot would have survived if there had not been a fire, another reason perhaps for practicing fire in the air and on the ground!

The passenger survived but was badly burned and since this accident has trained for and obtained a PPL at Liverpool and is now going on to do a CPL & Instructor Course, what an amazingly brave achievement! Well done Joel McNicholls and thank you for subscribing to this blog!


When considering this accident it should be remembered that the pilot was a fairly experienced PPL, he had held a PPL(A) since 1988 with a total of 426 hours and had recently done some retraining with an instructor, including EFATO’s. Before gaining his PPL he had flown 460 launches in gliders.

Unfortunately what the report doesn’t make clear is that if you are making an obstacle take off, as opposed to a normal take off, where you just accelerate to the best rate of climb speed, the attitude is higher and the margin above the stall will be considerably lower. With an engine failure in this higher attitude it is even more vital the you ‘push the nose over’ immediately to preserve the speed. Later tests conducted by the AAIB while investigating this accident showed that while maintaining the best angle of climb airspeed attitude, after power loss, the pilot would have had a maximum of 3 seconds to react before the aircraft stalled.

During the test flight (we are not told who this test pilot was by the AAIB), the pilot flew the aircraft in the short field takeoff configuration (full power, one stage of flap and 61 KIAS) and an EFATO was simulated by rapidly closing the throttle to idle. The pitch attitude was held constant. As soon as the pilot closed the throttle the aircraft decelerated rapidly and within 3 seconds, the aircraft stalled. At the point of the stall there was no significant pitch down but the aircraft rolled to 60° left bank. After it rolled, the nose dropped below the horizon and the aircraft entered a descent during which it lost 350 ft.

The rapid deceleration to the stall meant that there was no timely stall warning. This test was repeated. This time the aircraft rolled 90° to the left and lost 400 ft in the subsequent descent. During this descent, the pilot observed a rate of descent of 2,000 ft per minute, which was full-scale deflection on the instrument. On both occasions the aircraft stalled at 49±1 KIAS which is consistent with the data in the Pilot’s Operating Handbook (POH).

What the AAIB did not point out is that at the best angle of climb speed the aircraft was below Vmd  and on the backside of the drag curve, so it’s little wonder it decelerated back to the stall speed very quickly. Instructors also very rarely mention or teach the consequences of aircraft operation on the backside of the drag curve which needs to fully understood for safe operation at low speed such as take-off and approach and especially with power off approaches.

The bottom of the drag curve for all practical purposes equates to the best lift drag ratio which in turn equates to best glide speed. When below this speed the aircraft is speed unstable, in other words any speed decrease produces more drag which accelerates the speed loss. It’s essential to understand that when the aircraft is on the backside of the drag curve it is speed unstable and in the event of power reduction either on the climb out or on the approach, the speed is going to decrease much more quickly.

The POH states That: ‘Loss of altitude during stalls can be as great as 320 feet, depending on configuration and power.’

I would question the wisdom of flying obstacle clearance take offs as a regular event at an airfield where there are no take-off obstacles especially in an aircraft such as the Tomahawk which has even caught several instructors out fatally with its surprising reaction at the point of stall.

I can see no noise abatement procedure which suggests a best angle of climb speed should be used at Barton.

I also understand from unofficial sources that the pilot was wearing a high visibility vest, a mandatory airside requirement at Barton. My understanding is that most of these vests are made from synthetic flammable material which makes the unnecessary wearing of these jackets inside the cabin questionable.

You can make the Take Off Brief as short or as lengthy as you wish (you could just say STANDARD TAKE OFF BRIEF especially for early students) but you should always consider what you are going to be faced with after you push the nose over as at many airfields it can be a heart sinking surprise!  It could be a  main road, housing estate or it could be the sea (you are wearing an uninflated lifevest aren’t you!). Google Earth can provide useful information

Here are some airfields that may encourage some lateral thinking!




NOTE – The TO brief can be given out loud or silently on a straight unobstructed taxiway or stationary at the end of the Pre Take Off Checklist.




This will be a flaps ‘zero’ take-off on runway 33 (check setting)

Crosswind is xxx from the right or left (note a verbal assessment of the crosswind, if any, is actually a skill test requirement).

If there is a major problem before rotate I will close the throttle and apply max braking effort and advise ATC, ‘STOPPING’.

After TO at 100 feet I will make a 5 degree banked turn to the right to avoid the housing estate. (This turn is unique to this particular runway)

In the event of an engine failure after take off I will immediately push the nose over while stating, “MAYDAY ENGINE FAILURE” on the RT.

I will attempt to find the best available clear area either ahead or to the sides of the aircraft

The best glide speed is xxx

I will then (make a touch drill) close the throttle, mixture ICO, fuel off, mayday call, brief pax brace brace (unlatch/open door) Master switch off

In the event of a problem that requires an immediate return I will turn xxxx fly a low level circuit not below xxxx for runway xx advising ATC. Minimum level flight RPM on this aircraft is.

That took me less than 60 seconds! Sadly for some lazy instructors even 60 seconds is too long!


On stating flap setting confirm the setting visually.

If there is a noise abatement procedure, verbalise it

Consider an early minimum angle banked turn to reach an improved clear area availability in the event of engine failure.

With an engine failure on the PA28 the student should consider turning the fuel off so ensure he/she has practiced doing this on the ground as a stopping lock pawl has also to be operated to enable the fuel to be selected off.

This a dire emergency procedure that you need to react immediately to and be able to fly the aircraft very close to its limit and at times possibly aggressively to get the aircraft onto a clear piece of ground. Don’t waste time looking for an ideal field or one you cannot reach.

Be realistic, the aircraft stands a very good chance of suffering major damage, you just need to ensure you don’t!

Always consider the undershoot area because the most common pilot error is undershoot, try to avoid obstructed undershoots.

1.2 x Vs (V2) is the minimum speed for full controllability after an engine failure on a SE aircraft, it is unwise to be in the air below this speed close to the ground! (we use this as minimum rotate speed)

Why push the nose over and make an abbreviated Mayday call at the same time?

Tiger Moth instructors hate this one! If you’re struggling with this ask yourself why we actually make a Mayday call, it’s not just to satisfy instructor folk lore, it’s actually to get help! So there you are inverted and trapped in the straps with a fire starting, how soon do you want the nice man who drives the airfield fire engine to arrive, bearing in mind he doesn’t sit in his shiny fire engine all day just waiting for ATC to press the crash button. Common sense should tell you if you are trapped, or on fire or badly injured you will want him to arrive asap as every second lost can literally be the difference between life and death. So the sooner you alert ATC the sooner that fire engine is going to reach you. I should add here that you might well be thinking that the nice man in the tower will see immediately what is happening and press the crash button because he watches every take off, especially when the phone rings or when he is taking a landing fee! Think again or read this accident at Shobdon

From the AAIB report;

A visitor to the air traffic control tower brought the FISO’s attention to an aircraft in a spiral descent at about 500 ft aal. The FISO saw the spiral descent develop into a nose-low vertical descent before it impacted a field about 150 m north of the runway. There was a post‑impact fire, the pilot and passenger were both killed


So next time you take off, don’t just think take off, think engine failure and wonder whether anyone will see it!

One To Watch

These briefings are my opinions based on my professional experience. They are constantly reviewed and any comments or suggestions are always welcome at mininstryofflying at gmail.com or just hit reply!

Professional flying training is delivered by professionals who understand that the world we live in is constantly changing. There is always a better way of doing something, you just need to have the intelligence, and be able to get over your own ego, to realise this!