Aircraft

Device designed to keep planes from running out of runway

The device combines accelerometer data with information regarding the aircraft's required takeoff speed, current wind speed/direction, and the length of the runway
The device combines accelerometer data with information regarding the aircraft's required takeoff speed, current wind speed/direction, and the length of the runway
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The device combines accelerometer data with information regarding the aircraft's required takeoff speed, current wind speed/direction, and the length of the runway
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The device combines accelerometer data with information regarding the aircraft's required takeoff speed, current wind speed/direction, and the length of the runway

According to Boeing, 13 percent of all fatal aircraft accidents happen during takeoff. In some cases, it's because the plane goes off the end of the runway before becoming airborne. A new portable device is designed to keep that from happening.

Ordinarily, pilots will know if a given length of runway is long enough for a plane of a specific weight to take off. That only applies, however, if all the variables are as they should be.

"If the aircraft's engine is not working properly, if the cross or back wind component is too big, the air is too humid, the takeoff field is too rough, slippery or wet, the pilot is left to rely on his or her subjective opinion whether the aircraft will reach the required speed for takeoff in the given distance or not," says Dr. Darijus Pagodinas, of Lithuania's Kaunas University of Technology.

With that in mind, a team led by Pagodinas and Prof. Vytautas Dumbrava has developed a device that combines accelerometer data with information regarding the aircraft's required takeoff speed, current wind speed/direction, and the length of the runway. Within 10 seconds of the plane beginning to accelerate down the runway, the device determines if it will have enough room to reach the speed necessary for takeoff. An alarm will sound if failure is predicted, still leaving the pilot with enough time to safely stop.

Although the current prototype version of the device is designed for use in light aircraft, it could reportedly easily be scaled up for use in commercial airliners. The university is now looking for airlines that are interested in testing the technology in their flights.

"Our innovation would increase safety of air travelling," says Pagodinas. "I have had numerous conversations with experienced captains having ten thousand hours of flight experience, and they are convinced that an objective system, which informs about takeoff conditions is needed."

Source: Kaunas University of Technology

6 comments
aki009
That's neat, but possibly a bit overengineered. It seems to me that the same end result could be had by having a speed check with something like 3000 feet of runway remaining (most larger airports have runways with markers that indicate remaining runway). If you are at or above the minimum speed you know you'll be airborne. If not, you still have time to reject. The nifty electronic gadgets pilots compute takeoff parameters on could spit that number out while doing the rest of the calculations.
Brian M
@aki0009 Just about every pilot does that in their heads and will have at least mentally marked a position on the runway where they continue or abort. This device just improves on the V1 point where the pilots commits to take off. Aborting after V1 on most runways is not a good idea. Knowing something is wrong earlier can only help especially on marginal runways.
Joe123
This is a wonderful idea! As a private pilot I applaud the work on a project like this for General Aviation. No matter how good of a pilot you are, you are still human and weight & balance calculations along with density altitude and temperature calculations can't be done in your head. This device will eliminate that error and save a lot of lives. Congratulations.
guzmanchinky
Excellent idea!
jetserf
@Brian M I've been flying commercially for 19 years. Pilots don't mentally mark a position on the runway. We calculate or use a V1 speed that is computed and delivered to us. At night or during low visibility takeoffs you wouldn't really know your specific location on the runway.
Gregg Eshelman
I was hoping it was a ramp at the end of the runway. Not enough speed? Pop the ramp up! Full throttle! Yeeeeehawwww!