The Anonymous Widower

The Most Dangerous Part of a Flight

I had two major incidents flying light aircraft.

One was a partial engine failure and emergency landing at Leeds in a Piper Arrow en route from Prestwick to Ipswich.

The other was when I wrote-off my Cessna 340A going into a small field, because I’d been given the wrong wind direction and the plane wouldn’t stop on a wet grass runway.  So I had to jump a Cotswold stone wall and took the undercarriage off. No-one was hurt physically, although I always say now, that I should have probably diverted given the weather.  So it was my pilot error!

Although both of my incidents happened getting back on the ground, this generally isn’t the most dangerous part of a flight, as the plane is often empty of dangerous fuel, the engines are throlled right back and unless the weather is awful, it is unlikely a serious accident will result. Accidents on approach have happened in recent years in the UK at Kegworth and Heathrow, but luckily they are fairly uncommon in this part of the flight.

The accident at Barton Aerodrome yesterday, happened on take-off, which in my view is a much more dangerous part of a flight. I think statistics bear this out. But then on take-off the engines are on full power, the full tanks are full and the pilots are probably working hardest.

So next time you take a flight in a commercial aircraft, you are quite entitled to feel relief, when the pilot allows you to unfasten your seat belt, as he’s got the most dangerous part of the flight over.

July 30, 2011 - Posted by | Transport |

6 Comments »

  1. I would have thought approach and landing has a higher accident rate than takeoff as weather, terrain and pilot error are more in play.

    Mind you I’ve just flown to Lisbon and back on TAP – the rather elderly A320 going there sounded like the engines were past their best on take-off. Coming back in a much newer A319 was much smoother and quieter. Surprisingly TAP is the world’s fourth safest airline although their customer service can be rather chaotic. The worst recently was being put in the back of an MD-80 coming back from Stockholm on SAS – the engine noise and vibration there is worrying.

    Comment by Marc | July 30, 2011 | Reply

    • Look at the stats. The classc accident was a small Brazilian airliner, where the pilots came to blows on take off and the plane crashed into trees. Luckily there were only two casualties. The two pilots!

      As to the MD-80s, I was involved in a project to create an anti-noise system on the plane. We found it was possible, but expensive, so no-one would fund it past the initial stage. It would appear they are wrong.

      In my view engines should be on the wing, as the plane is better balanced.

      Comment by AnonW | July 30, 2011 | Reply

  2. Well there are more incident on approach/landing but fewer fatalities it seems.

    http://www.1001crash.com/index-page-statistique-lg-2-numpage-3.html

    Comment by Marc | July 30, 2011 | Reply

    • I remember seeing some stats somewhere, where they attributed the casualities to where the problem occurred rather than where it happened. I think the casualties on landing were diffeent than those shown in the link.

      So for instance if anybody had been hurt when the Airbus landed in the Hudson, count as a take-off incident rather than a landing one? Luckily no-one was hurt and the pilot did the test flight that a lot of pilots have wanted to see happen for years. What happens when you land an airliner on water?

      Comment by AnonW | July 30, 2011 | Reply

  3. I would agree it was a take-off incident. It would be interesting to see if you get more bird strikes on take-off or landing. I suspect it’s the first from personal experience, but it would depend on speed and the wind direction too. I should think though that you would do more damage to an engine running at full power with a large goose, than one running at low power. But I’m not sure.

    Comment by AnonW | July 30, 2011 | Reply


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