“Are you ready?”
I release the brakes and smoothly push the power levers forward to the takeoff power setting for the day. My right hand stays on the power levers, guarding them, and to be immediately able to pull the power to idle if something major goes wrong, and the takeoff needs to be aborted. My left hand is guarding the steering ‘tiller’ on the left side of the cockpit, and is standing by if any major emergency steering inputs are needed. We are, however, going straight down the centerline of the runway by using my feet on the rudder pedals that are connected to the nose-wheel steering. My co-pilot holds the yoke in her right hand and applies the appropriate crosswind correction through the ailerons.
“80 Knots Cross Checked.”
Upon hearing “80 knots”, my left hand moves from the area of the tiller to the yoke. We have now gathered enough speed that the aerodynamic rudder at the back of the airplane has sufficient air flowing over it to provide enough ‘rudder authority’ to keep the airplane straight.
“My Yoke”, I call as my co-pilot releases her grip.
We continue the takeoff, gathering speed, until I next hear…
“V1” (Vee One)
Hearing “V1” from my co-pilot, I now take my right hand off of the power levers and firmly grip the yoke with both hands.
Then… THE LEFT ENGINE FAILS!
The airplane yaws to the left… I instinctively add right rudder to keep the airplane tracking straight down the runway.
What to do???
We are still on the ground, but going very fast!
- Maybe we should try to stop on the runway remaining in front of us. Can we stop on the runway remaining in front of us?
- Maybe we should try to get the airplane to try to fly on the one engine that is still producing thrust? Will it fly? Will it climb?
- Maybe we should just throw our hands up in the air. It is inevitable we are going to crash.
- Maybe we should turn to each other and discuss the pros and cons of our options.
Oh that’s right. We don’t have TIME to discuss things. We’re a little busy.
What to do?
What to do?
What to do?
The answer my friend, is in the first two sentences of this essay. “Are you ready?” “Ready.” The decision(s) have already been made.
Let me explain.
V1 is the takeoff decision speed. Better defined as the ‘first action’ speed. If the pilot has not started to abort the takeoff (by pulling the power levers back, and/or applying the brakes, and/or deploying the flight spoilers, and/or deploying the thrust reversers), by default he (or she) is now going to continue the takeoff with the remaining thrust available. Remember my moving my right hand from the power levers to the yoke? My hand is no longer poised to pull the power levers back. It is a commitment to fly. We are not going to try to stop.
Also part of the equation is the concept of ‘accelerate stop distance’ and ‘accelerate go distance’.
Prior to achieving V1 speed, if an engine fails, or something else bad happens (such as hitting a deer), the crew has enough runway remaining in front of them to stop the airplane. Accelerate stop.
Conversely, after achieving V1 speed, if an engine fails, or something else bad happens (like a blown tire), the aircraft is still capable of accelerating to rotation speed (Vr), and reaching an altitude of at least 35 feet by the end of the runway. Accelerate go.
The concept of V1 is just one small part of the safety net when you fly in a transport category airplane. All of these performance considerations are taken into account as part of the preflight planning, in the pilot training, and in the aircraft certification. Decisions of what to do, when confronted with an event that requires immediate action, I refer to as ‘pre-decisions’. If this – then that.
These concepts cannot always be 100% correct, but by thoroughly considering potential situations in advance, we can help to load things in our favor, and increase safety. This is a way for us to expand time. Pre-decisions are a way for us to manage time to our advantage.
So, here is the question! What does the concept of V1, and pre-decisions have to do with the way we live our lives?
It could be as simple as the decision to not answer your cell phone while you are driving. A pre-decision… you have weighed your options in advance. If it rings, the potential cost of answering it is unacceptable. Similarly, and even more importantly, absolutely – NO TEXTING while driving.
It is possible for the idea of pre-decisions to be as broad as fighting fatigue. If I am scheduled to fly across an ocean tomorrow, it is imperative that I get a proper night’s sleep tonight. If this – then that.
It might be as important as marriage vows, when both partners pledge they will love each other “for rich or for poor”, “in sickness or in health”. They cannot foresee the future, but the answer remains constant. When faced with questions and threats, their pre-decision will provide direction and answers. I will love you… no matter what.
How can you, yes you, use the jet pilot’s concept of V1, and of pre-decisions to better your life and the lives you come in contact with? Are there answers that you can come up with now, that will be good solutions to the problems you might be faced with in the future while on life’s journey?
Here’s to coming up with some answers before you need them. Good luck with life’s questions.
“Are you Ready?”
Epilogue; Oh, and the Engine Failure After V1? We continued the takeoff, reached rotation speed, rotated the airplane, raised the gear and climbed to 1500 feet above the ground. It was determined that we should not attempt to restart the failed engine. We returned to a successful single engine approach and landing to the runway we had just taken off from. We were in a simulator. The instructor was able to check a few more boxes on his form. Just another day at the office…