Intersection takeoff goes bad

Aircraft: Piper Cherokee. Injuries: None. Location: Lake Wales, Fla. Aircraft damage: Substantial.

What reportedly happened: The student pilot was practicing takeoffs and landings with his CFI.

After several successful takeoffs and landings the CFI got out of the airplane and briefed the student pilot for solo traffic pattern work. The student pilot taxied to the end of the runway and performed the first takeoff and landing without incident.

He then positioned for his second takeoff at an intersection of the runway and a taxiway, which left about 1,000 feet of runway remaining. The CFI made a call on the CTAF telling the student not to perform an intersection departure.

The student pilot initiated the takeoff, but determined the airplane was not climbing properly and aborted the takeoff. Without sufficient runway remaining to stop and with obstacles ahead, the student pilot veered right. The airplane collided with bushes. The student later stated that he did not hear his CFI’s warning over the CTAF.

Probable cause: The student pilot’s decision to depart from an intersection with insufficient runway remaining for takeoff, which resulted in a rejected takeoff and subsequent runway excursion.

NTSB Identification: ERA12LA314

This April 2012 accident report is provided by the National Transportation Safety Board. Published as an educational tool, it is intended to help pilots learn from the misfortunes of others.


  1. BJS says

    I’m a relatively new pilot, license 3 years, and my CFI always had me use every inch of runway, even the nearly 6,000 foot runway at our airport. It just makes sense to do that even if I had never been told but I’m 73 so maybe more common sense has filtered in over the years? However, I’ve made other errors and omissions, usually from not following the check list to the letter, so can’t totally fault this guy. Every time I pull one of the omissions I learn from it and never do it again. Life is a constant learning curve and learning never ends as long as a breath is drawn.

  2. G. says

    Glad to see everyone here not only had judgment surpassing Charles Lindbergh, but never made poor decisions when under the stress of learning to fly.

    So how’s life as a Space Shuttle pilot treating you guys?

    • Richard Warner says

      Well, G, I’m not a space shuttle pilot, but have been flying now for 60 years, since I was 17, have close to 28,000 accident & incident free hours both commercial and private. We were taught to use the whole runway when I learned to fly and wouldn’t have even thought of doing an intersection takeoff as a student. I’m sure you’ve heard the 3 useless things in aviation, “Runway behind you, Fuel in the pump, and Altitude above you”. They don’t mention in the article whether this was his first solo, but it could have been. With such a wonderful short field airplane as a Cherokee, I wonder what made him think he could get off safely in 1,000′. I still think it is a bad judgement decision by the student. Evidently the NTSB thinks so too. I’m not afraid to use my name when making a comment.

      • G. says

        I fully agree that it was horrible judgement on the pilots part, but I don’t see how anyone here knows enough about the situation to claim that the student should be “banned from flying” because of it. Thousands of pilots have made mistakes, and thousands have learned from it.

        This looks to me like a traditional “swiss cheese” accident, where everything just fell into place at the wrong time. Training could have been suspect from the start, the pilot was probably under a lot of stress, maybe it was an unfamiliar runway, and the call not to make the takeoff didn’t get through.

        There’s so many reasons why it happened, and I guarantee that he is looking back wondering why he did what he did.

        If everyone was forced to quit flying the first time they make a mistake early in training, there’d be an outcry like we’ve never seen.

  3. John says

    Another explanation (other than the assertions of unsuitability because of failure to follow CFI instructions) is task saturation and mental tunnel vision. This is a problem even experienced pilots can succumb to in moments of high stress in a ‘new to them’ situation. I also wonder if the CFI had previously used intersection departures while instructing this student (obviously, with a bit more runway than this student had prior to the excursion)? If so, the student would have learned that intersection departures are ‘OK’, and can be conducted “safely”. We don’t have the “rest of the story”, so it’s too early for judgmental statements.

  4. Richard Warner says

    This student obviously lacks good judgement. He should be banned from flying, because I believe he will end up killing himself and sadly probably some poor unsuspecting passenger(s) if he continues.

  5. Bluestar says

    This student is in for more earth shaking moments, not only with flying, but other tasks in life. Seems he can’t or won’t follow instructions, probably missing the common sense equation too.

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