Takeoff Tactic Takes Precision

I read with considerable interest your recent “Danger in the Sky” series in which some airline pilots complained that the noise abatement departure procedure at Orange County Airport is “hazardous.”

I get the impression those pilots don’t mind being part of the airport’s noise problem, they just don’t want to be part of its solution.

The procedure of which they complain is nothing new. Nor is it as dangerous as they would have the public believe. I know because I was one of its principal architects.

It’s over 20 years old, was worked out through joint airport-airline efforts and approved as completely safe by the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration). Cockpit visibility due to flight-deck angle and adequate air speed were no problem.


One thing about the procedure, however--it is a precision flight maneuver. It takes practice to do it well.

In the old days, we discovered that pilots who flew in and out of the airport regularly could hit the middle of the bay and make their power reduction at the proper time with no problem.

On the other hand, pilots who did not fly in and out of the airport as regularly, and were sometimes less motivated, did not do nearly so well.

This tells me that airline pilots concerned about the safety of Orange County departures should practice the maneuver in the simulator as part of recurrent training before attempting it for real.