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Media Myth Busters: No 1Short Runways

It probably seems as if I’m constantly at war with the Media.

I watched a couple of programmes recently on Channel 5 here in the UK,  and I feel as if another skirmish with them is about to happen. For anyone with a fear of flying these programmes will always do more damage than to the rest of the viewing public, simply because they are more likely to take things literally and interpret things incorrectly, and this affects how they think about flying.

From a professional position I regard the pilot experts as being far from expert in the quality of their accounts of incidents and accidents. From my point of view flying a plane isn’t a hard thing to do, sure it requires judgement and  lots of skill but almost every job does. The problem with pilots is that you can’t see them at work so they can inflate the skills and difficulties without correction. Perhaps the pilots who stick their noses so frequently in front of the camera find it harder to do than I do. Perhaps I was never really tested in my career maybe I don’t really know what’s going on … maybe I’m out of touch.

Perhaps my role as a training pilot makes me reduce things to their simplest form and I don’t find embellishment helpful. By contrast, programme makers do I suppose.

As an example let me mention landing on so called short runways.

What does short mean? Too short or shorter than optimum? Neither of these things accurately describe the words I would use: Landing distance Required and Landing distance Available

As long as the Landing Distance Required  (calculated by performance engineers and aerodynamicists) is less than the Landing Distance Available then it’s just another day at the office!

The reason that a big plane can land on a ‘short’ runways ifs that it will be doing so at a much lower weight than it does on a ‘long’ runway. the lighter a plane is the more slowly it can fly. The slower it flies the less distance it takes to slow down. As long as the pilot touches down at the correct point on the runway there’s no problem. Why shouldn’t a pilot be able to do that?

It’s one of the significant points I make to instructors ” Don’t let your students become anxious about ‘short’ runways” if  the runways is too ‘short’ then you’re landing on the wrong runway!

Captain Keith

Here’s a  page from our Workshop Booklet which we us on our Fear of Flying Courses. This shows how we use the runway space. You’ll see that there are bits and the start and finish where we don’t use the distance for take off  or landing calculations.

Fear of flying book page





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