The Departure Briefing

The old saying goes, “never fly an airplane to a place where your mind has not been at least ten minutes before”.  Said in other words – planning is key in aviation.

I still remember to Richard Bach on his book “a Gift of Wings” looking for a spot to land on every takeoff in case his sole engine quits.

Incorrect planning or lack of planning at all has been the cause of many aviation accidents that could have been avoided with a proper briefing establishing a course of actions in case the unexpected happens.

Either if you are a recreational pilot or a professional pilot flying a single engine airplane or a complex aircraft, flying single pilot, or multicrew, you must have clear course of actions for all phases of flight.

Sometimes, flight planning starts before leaving from home, reviewing the weather forecasts, TAF’s, METAR’S, PIREP’s, etc., assuming that all this has been done.  Let’s review start here with our departure briefing.

The Departure Briefing – “every takeoff is optional but every landing is mandatory”

Every time we are flying close to the ground, either for takeoff or landing, we have little time to cope with the unexpected.  Any emergency during these phases of flight requires our firm and prompt response and when time is scarce, previous planning can be the difference between a successful operation and a disaster.

Once preflight is complete, our takeoff figures have been calculated, ATIS has been copied, departure clearance has been obtained, it comes the time of The Departure / Takeoff Briefing.

If you fly single pilot, doing a departure briefing to yourself can seem odd, but set a course of actions in an emergency is critical.  In case we have an SID, after reviewing it, note which way is the first turn after takeoff, obstacles in the area, weather hazards, nav-aids availability at the airport, etc.  In a multiengine airplane, when we have to deal with an emergency situation we must carry on checklists before proceeding back to land, this means we must have the situation under control and for a certain period of time be in a precise location meanwhile we prepare for our return to the airfield. If not assigned by ATC a holding pattern fix can be the best place, instead of flying around the airport without knowing exactly where we are, this is especially critical at night or in mountainous terrain. Plan carefully, focus on flying the airplane, be situational aware all the time and don’t rush.

Many times I hear my fellow colleagues make a plan only in case of an engine failure, but having two engines or more turning, one of the most rushing situations we can experience in an airplane is:  Smoke.  Smoke can create a situation that can go beyond our control in a matter of minutes, in this case an urgent return back to land is essential.

Departure briefings vary according to Operator’s SOP’s – Standard Operating Procedures.  If you don’t have a standard one here goes an example of what point a DP should cover:

·      In case of a multi-crew, state who’s PF (Pilot Flying – is the one that must carry on the Departure Briefing)

·         Takeoff weight.

·         Takeoff speeds.

·         Rated takeoff power / thrust.

·         SID (if required)

·         Weather avoidance – if applicable

·         NAV / Radios – Frequencies selection and FMS or FMC setting.

·         Intended departure runway.

·         OEI (One Engine Inoperative) Departure procedure – if applicable.

·         Outbound radial or departure track.

·         Acceleration altitude and final altitude.

·       Holding point, return for landing and departure alternates (in case of a takeoff below landing minimums).

·         Initial turn direction and altitude.

 

·         And any other item considered of critical importance to be briefed prior to takeoff.

 

Most important of all, once your briefing has been done and once in the air, follow your briefing, a cardinal rule for a good CRM.

 

“Hope for the Best, Plan for the Worst”

 

Author:  Capt. Ivan

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