The aircraft is accelerating down runway 31C at Midway Airport in Chicago. At rotation speed, a loud “pop” is heard, and vibration is felt. What to do?
This involves a fairly complicated “Rejected Takeoff” decision tree that Captains only get to practice once a year in the simulator. And, likely, has NEVER had to respond to this particular situation, even in the simulator. It’s been discussed, but that’s a long way from the neural pathways now in command.
Back at the gate, both pilots talked quickly about rejected takeoffs in a well-worn verbal recital that, while beneficial, does little to nurture the brain gymnastics required of an real situation. It certainly doesn’t traverse the neural pathways that will soon be exercised.
This is a blown tire. If the pilot reacts correctly, he will do one of the following:
- Look at his N1 gauges. If they’re good, continue the takeoff to easily sort it out in the air.
- If he treats this as “unfit to fly,” possibly interpreting it as an uncontained engine failure, he will try to stop but without at least one tire not in the brake equation. This can result in an overrun at high speed, possibly faster than the EMAS can stop the aircraft.
Practicing this in a real-time iPad simulation, with all the relevant inputs, could dramatically improve decision speed and accuracy, especially with some repetition.
Everything is in the same relative place as the cockpit because it is a 3D cockpit. Engine gauges appear in the corresponding place where engine gauges are located. Sounds are simulated so he hears a muted “pop.” The pilot sees a very slight swerve that’s easily corrected, and everything shakes slightly to simulate the very slight vibration that may be felt.
He responds by either continuing (doing nothing but the normal takeoff) or doing a correct rejected takeoff.
Pilot response is assessed for correctness of decision and execution of the reject. To count as a success, it must be done promptly and in the correct order down to a stop. If something doesn’t go well, he’s offered another chance to try again at the same scenario. Speed at which the stimulus (tire burst) occurs varies.
Every situation is different, and going “by the book” may not always be the correct response, but it is the most LIKELY to be correct. Just like how seat belts can kill by trapping an occupant in a car, but on average, they save FAR more lives. That’s “doing it by the book.” If pilot responses could be more reliably “by the book,” then it would improve the likelihood of a good outcome in a tough situation.