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Sample Takeoff Briefing

Posted by on June 11, 2009 16 Comments Category : Flight Instructor Blog Tags : ,

takeoff-160Before Takeoff Checklist
Throttle: 1700 RPM
Magnetos: Checked
Carb Heat: On
Carb Heat: Off
Throttle: Set-800 RPM
Flight Instruments: Set
Takeoff Briefing….huh???

A common problem that I see in many of my students (both primary and advanced) is the failure to adequately brief the takeoff and departure segments.  This is a critical and common mistake with many pilots.  Richard C. Cushing summarized the importance of planning when he said:

Always plan ahead. It wasn’t raining when Noah built the ark.

This quotation really summarizes the purpose of a good takeoff briefing.  A takeoff briefing should clearly state your plan-of-action for both when everything goes as planned and “when it starts to rain”.    Because as the proverb says:

He who fails to plan, plans to fail

So then, what should you include in a takeoff briefing?  I think a good takeoff briefing is one that answers questions. Questions like:

  • Who will perform the takeoff? Student or Instructor?
  • Which runway are you departing?
  • What type of takeoff is going to be performed? Normal, rolling, short field, soft?
  • What will I do if I lose an engine during the takeoff roll? What about a engine loss at 50 feet? 500 feet?
  • What are the critical V speeds for this particular aircraft? Vx, Vy and Best Glide.
  • What are the departure instructions? Is there an obstacle departure procedure that I need to be aware of? Does my departure clearance include a SID?
  • Which airport would I go in case of an emergency and the airplane was still flyable?  Sometimes the departure airport isn’t prepared to handle an engine fire or has a runway long enough to deal with a complete hydraulic failure.

Do you see now the importance of including a pretakeoff briefing before each and every flight? This is not a procedure just for the first-flight-of-the-day.  A takeoff briefing should be performed if you’re staying in the pattern, departing on a cross-country and with or without an instructor present.  Every takeoff is unique and each requires a different course in the case of a malfunction.  It should also be noted that a verbal (as in out-loud) briefing should be performed in both single pilot and crew pilot configurations.  Just because you don’t have a pilot sitting in the cockpit listening to you doesn’t make the exercise without merit.  Verbalizing and listening to your own voice through the intercom / headset is a good way to solidify and commit your intentions to memory.

Here is a a sample takeoff briefing that I would use in a single-engine aircraft:

This will be a normal takeoff.  We will departing on runway 24 with an initial altitude of 3,000.  Vr is 50 and Vy is 67.  If we have any problems before rotation or with adequate runway remaining after liftoff, we will abort.  Standard emergency procedures will be used in the event of engine failure without adequate runway remaining.  Best glide is 65 KIAS.  We won’t even think about returning to this airport unless we are at 1,000 AGL.  Any questions or comments?

As you graduate into more advanced aircraft, you’ll notice that your takeoff briefing will have to be adapted to match the performance of that airplane.  For instance, here is a sample takeoff briefing for a light jet aircraft:

This will be a rolling takeoff with flaps set at 10 from runway 23.  We will abort for any reason below 80 knots.  After 80 knots we will only abort for engine fire, engine failure or  failure to maintain directional control.  After v1 we’ll handle it as a in-flight emergency and continue the takeoff roll.  Memory items will be as required and hold all checklists till 1,000′ AGL.   If we have to return, we’ll request a left downwind for 23 and pattern altitude is 1,500′. Departure instructions are the Airport 5 SID which has us making a left turn to 210 deg at 500 feet.  Standard calls. Any questions?

I’ve provided these as a basis for you to develop your takeoff briefings.  I’ve warned you about the dangers of not using a pretakeoff clearance but there is also a danger in “rote” recitation where you can just say the words, without really giving them the thought they deserve.

I don’t have to rehash the accident statistic rates here, but I’m sure you know how a large majority of aviation accidents and incidents occur during takeoff and landing phase.  That is why it is so crucial that we plan for a emergency before they happen.  Playing defense against an emergency, without a clear cut plan, is much harder than playing an offensive maneuver that has been rehearsed and discussed.

Fly Safe (and brief those takeoffs!)


  1. Bill Williams on Jun 11, 2009

    Great reminder and examples. Thanks!

  2. Patrick Flannigan on Jun 11, 2009

    Also, don’t let the takeoff briefing come as a surprise on the checklist. Think about the flight conditions and brief it before taxiing the aircraft.

    However you choose to brief it, be consistent in format. Every time I get ready to run the before start check, I brief the same items in the same order. With some practice, you can make you’re briefing into a safe and reliable habit.

  3. Paul on Jun 11, 2009

    Good point Patrick. In fact, looking over the checklist that the an airline I used to fly for use I see the takeoff briefing listed as an item on the “before starting engines” portion. The current a/c I fly technically has the “crew brief” on the before taxi checklist.

    Thanks for pointing that out.

  4. Todd on Jun 12, 2009

    Great post Paul. I think many students get in the habit of doing this when their instructor is next to them but fail to carry it on beyond initial training. It is something every pilot should not just say but truly think about before pushing in full power.

  5. Jason Schappert on Jun 16, 2009

    Great points paul. I find my students knock out the entire pre-takeoff checklist then stare at me wide eyed when they see “departure briefing!?!?!”

    I’ll direct my students to your post! Good stuff


  6. Shafiq on Dec 22, 2009

    Great. Thanks.

  7. The beauty of brevity « Flight Training on Aug 31, 2010

    […] information on engine failures and other scary prospects. This type of brief is detailed on the Ask a Flight Instructor site. The information in the post has its place, usually in times of dual instruction. But don’t […]

  8. How to do an effective preflight briefing (Blue Angels style) - Golf Hotel Whiskey on Aug 31, 2010

    […] tips about how to do a preflight briefing, Todd ended his post by suggesting a post by Paul on Ask a Flight Instructor for some sample scripts and then a podcast that was done several years ago by Jason Miller of […]

  9. EPAALAT JOHN on Jul 31, 2011

    This is a great reminder and good practice so that both crews know what will happen where and how . It will also remind the single crew pilot as it sticks in his/her memory by reading aloud.

  10. ASK CAPTAIN JON on Apr 08, 2012

    All good stuff but consider apart from wind not being mentioned.

    Most of this briefing can be done while taxying out so when you come to the checklist item, ‘Take Off Briefing’ you can either say, ‘ complete’ or give any revisions. Problem is with most SE TO briefs they have evolved from multi engined pilots and their aircraft.

    So what are you going to do if you get partial power failure on the climbout?
    Where are you going to go when you lower the nose? if you have local knowledge you may like to remind yourself of that no go area such as a housing estate off the end of the runway etc..

    My briefing would be
    Engine failure, partial power or inabiliity to fly before rotate= stop
    After TO, partial power (min xxx rpm) continue with carb air hot
    After TO engine failure EFATO drill, best area to left or right and wind from (no one mentioned wind yet)
    If dual who is going to fly what.

    Just a point about briefings in general:
    So many instructors fail to point out to students what they are trying to achieve or teach. This case highlights that. Start off with reminding students that there are several reasons for briefings of this nature. One is to get you into the right frame of mind for the departure. Another is to give you a mental rehersal of what you need to do to bring the flight to a safe conclusion if an emergency arises. Finally if you are dual it reduces the confusion that may occur if neither of you knows who is doing what in an emergency.

    Keep briefings short and simple and to the point. You dont need to say them out aloud if you are carrying passengers unless you want to frighten them to death!

    Oh and if you are in a Cessan high wing aircraft always include door opening on TO as part of your brief!

    Fly safe

    Ask Captain Jon

  11. Marc on Nov 16, 2012

    Take off briefing should be short. For example:

    Take off Briefing:

    Relieve nose wheel at 47 kts, rotate at 57 kts.
    Initial climb speed with flaps …kts

    With flaps up …kts.
    In case of engine fire or serious mulfaction below safe alt. nose down, flaps as req. and land straight ahead (+/- 45° heading change.)

    Above save alt. turn into the wind and try to land on the RWY.

    Take off Briefing Completed

    Cessna 172 for example

  12. Nick on Jan 05, 2017

    I dunno what people are writing and making itnsomcomplicated. But in a small private plane aafter a run up check, a take off briefing is simply the acronym SAFETY and a abort plan

    SAFETY is seatbelts,air(airvents), fire extinguishes, emergencies-exit- and equiptment, traffic and talking(think radios) and QUESTIONS. Its simply letting your passengers be aware of what is I’m the airplane and how to use of for there safety . here is a descriptive link on how to really understand it. https://www.faasafety.gov/gslac/ALC/libview_normal.aspx?id=14082

    After that is your abort plan.

    Abort Plan during Take Off
    Engine failure before rotation
    Maintain runway heading and get off the runway asap

    If sufficient runway below 50ft land and vacate asap

    After rotation, before 500 ft look for a field within 30°

    After rotation above 500ft consider turning back to runway

    Hope this is what you where looking for because I don’t know what other people where writing. They seemed to make it complicated.

  13. Matt Bowers on Jul 02, 2017

    Great post. I came here while developing instructional materials.
    Despite my earning ATP and every instructor rating, I’d never had this covered until I went for ATP. I’m now writing handouts and will teach this.
    1) Airline Pilots do this for a reason.
    2) Those who advance to ATP, will already have learned how before starting the ATP training.


  14. TIMOTHY BILBY on Oct 21, 2017

    Thankyou for the reminder. I have been through four instructors to try to finish my Pilots.
    My last instructor, in which I recently put him on hold didn’t go through one run-up/runway briefing.

  15. stephen on Jan 08, 2018

    The SAFETY acronym is not used as a departure briefing, that is geared specifically towards passengers, aka the passenger brief, during the preflight phase. Just use a custom brief tailored to what you’re doing with the emergency scenarios added.

  16. Bruno Stocker on Jan 17, 2018

    an old dispute!
    keep it focused, short and simple: it must be adapted to the actual situation and practicable
    as Captain Jo (Apr. 08, 2012) and Nick (Jan 05, 2017) said

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