Flight Redemptions

What is RTO in Aviation? (Rejected Takeoff)

Updated: March 09, 2024

What is a Rejected Takeoff (RTO) in Aviation?

A Rejected Takeoff, commonly referred to as an RTO, is a procedure in aviation where a pilot decides to abort the takeoff and bring the aircraft to a stop on the runway. This decision is made due to various reasons, such as an aircraft malfunction, an obstacle on the runway, or a sudden change in weather conditions. The primary goal of an RTO is to ensure the safety of the passengers, crew, and the aircraft itself.

During a rejected takeoff, the pilot applies maximum braking and, if necessary, uses thrust reversers to reduce the aircraft's speed. The decision to perform an RTO is typically made during the takeoff roll before the aircraft reaches its rotation speed, which is the speed at which the pilot lifts the nose of the aircraft off the ground.

Reasons for a Rejected Takeoff

There are several reasons why a pilot may initiate a rejected takeoff:

Aircraft Malfunction: If the pilot detects any abnormal indications, warnings, or malfunctions in the aircraft systems during the takeoff roll, they may decide to abort the takeoff. This could include issues with the engines, flight controls, or other critical systems.
Runway Incursion: If the pilot spots an obstacle, such as another aircraft, a vehicle, or debris on the runway, they will immediately abort the takeoff to avoid a potential collision.
Unstable Flight Conditions: Sudden changes in weather conditions, such as strong crosswinds, heavy rain, or severe turbulence, can make the takeoff unsafe. In such cases, the pilot may choose to reject the takeoff and wait for the conditions to improve.
Incorrect Configuration: If the aircraft is not properly configured for takeoff, such as flaps and slats not in the correct position, the pilot may decide to abort the takeoff to avoid potential issues during the flight.
Pilot Decision: The pilot has the final authority and responsibility for the safety of the flight. If the pilot feels that any condition or situation poses a risk to the safety of the aircraft and its occupants, they may choose to perform an RTO.

Procedure for a Rejected Takeoff

When a pilot decides to initiate a rejected takeoff, they follow a specific procedure to ensure the safety of the aircraft and its occupants:

Thrust Reversers: If the aircraft is equipped with thrust reversers, the pilot deploys them to help slow down the aircraft. Thrust reversers redirect the engine's thrust forward, creating a reverse thrust that aids in deceleration.
Maximum Braking: The pilot applies maximum braking using the aircraft's anti-skid system to prevent the wheels from locking up. This allows for effective braking without jeopardizing the aircraft's stability.
Communications: The pilot immediately notifies the air traffic control tower of the rejected takeoff and the reason behind the decision. This ensures that other aircraft and ground services are aware of the situation.
Evacuation: In rare cases where there is a significant risk to the safety of the passengers and crew, the pilot may decide to initiate an emergency evacuation of the aircraft once it has come to a stop.
Post-Rejected Takeoff Inspection: After the aircraft has safely come to a stop, the pilot and the flight crew conduct a thorough inspection of the aircraft to assess any damage or issues that may have led to the rejected takeoff.

It is important to note that a rejected takeoff is a relatively rare occurrence in aviation. The majority of takeoffs are completed safely without the need for an RTO. However, pilots undergo extensive training to ensure they are prepared to handle any situation that may arise during the takeoff phase of a flight.

For more information on rejected takeoffs and other aviation procedures, you can visit the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) website.

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