Pilots Warn Of Risky, Vomit-Inducing Takeoffs From New Berlin Airport

Filed Under: Misc.

Berlin Brandenburg Airport is finally supposed to open next month, only nine years late, and several billion dollars over budget. Well, before the new airport even opens, pilots are sharing safety concerns about takeoffs from the new airport, as reported by Der Tagesspiegel.

Takeoff procedure for Berlin Brandenburg Airport

Berlin Brandenburg Airport is essentially an add-on to the current Berlin Schönefeld Airport, with a new terminal and a new southerly runway (7R).

In the event of easterly winds, runway 7R will be used for takeoff, and this will require pilots to make a sharp right hand turn shortly after takeoff.

Less than 30 seconds after takeoff, at an altitude of around 180 meters, planes will start their sharp turn, known as the “Hoffman curve.” They’ll turn to 145 degrees, meaning they’ll turn around 75 degrees (since runway 7R roughly faces 70 degrees).

The reason for the turn is to minimize noise over populated areas that would otherwise be under the departure course. There are densely populated areas straight ahead from the runway, and they want to avoid noise over those communities.

This departure sequence, officially known as the “LULUL1B,” complies with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) standards, and has also been approved by the organization representing air traffic controllers.

So, what’s the problem?

Pilots warn takeoffs may be “vomit-inducing”

An organization representing pilots is taking issue with this new departure sequence:

  • Pilots claim that the turn shortly after takeoff unnecessarily increases safety risk, and makes pilots more prone to error; pilots would prefer to concentrate solely on a straight climb during this critical phase of flight, but rather will have to focus on turning
  • Pilots claim that manually turning the aircraft increases complexity, which can be a problem in the case of an emergency, like a bird strike, or an engine or hydraulic failure
  • Pilots also refer to this as a “puke curve,” warning that those who are afraid of flying might be concerned by the drastic turn shortly after takeoff
  • Pilots do have an alternative departure that involves a straight climb out for quite a distance, though it will add to the flight time and fuel burn
  • While similar takeoff procedures are in place at other airports, it’s usually due to terrain issues, and not simply for noise abatement

Bottom line

Berlin Brandenburg Airport has had enough issues as it is, and this only adds to that. Ultimately it sounds like this won’t be a deal-breaker, because the takeoff procedure has been approved in spite of objections from pilots.

At a minimum, I hope pilots will warn passengers about this takeoff procedure before departure, so that people know to expect the sharp turn.

Beyond that, though, I’m not really sure to what to make of this. On the one hand, you don’t want to dismiss the concerns of pilots. On the other hand, this is an approved takeoff procedure, and similar procedures are performed elsewhere. While there presumably is some increased risk, it would appear it’s not an actual concern for regulators.

What do you make of pilots’ concerns about the new Berlin Brandenburg Airport takeoff procedure?

(Tip of the hat to Your Mileage May Vary)

  1. If turning the airplane at any stage of flight creates a “safety concern” for European pilots I’d suggest there are larger issues that need to be addressed.

  2. Is it tighter than the Canarsie Climb at JFK or the Whitestone Climb at LGA? What about the departures from ICN when departing North? There are tight turns immediately after takeoff at airports all over the world. Would love to hear a pilot’s opinion of this who is not represented by this union.

  3. @GuruJanitor for that matter, the RWY 1 departure at DCA requires a tight turn over the river to avoid the restricted airspace over downtown DC. I don’t know if its 75 degrees, but it definitely happens within 30 seconds of takeoff and it isn’t anywhere near “vomit inducing.”

  4. It’s no different to Barcelona… where people seem to manage perfectly well. Perhaps the coastal views distract them. if they are a bit heavy and still have to, they can still fly out straight. …And the old HKG airport anyone? God forbid they should actually have to do something for their nice salary! You’ll a nice big long queue of pilots ready to take the job of these ones who have a problem moving their arms in the cockpit…

  5. The Concorde did this on every take-off from JFK during 25 years from 1978 to 2003 for exactly the same reason. In spite of more noise (inside the cabin), smaller windows hampering view, stronger acceleration and vibration, and more important banking angle due to the delta wing, not a single case of vomiting was ever reported AFAIK. This seems to be total BS.

    By the way, the Captain main character in the original movie “Airport” (1970), has a famous quote: “Immediately after take-off, I am going to perform a manoeuver which should cause every rookie pilot student to be immediately thrown out of any flying school: Roll my fully loaded plane which is heavy, accelerating and close to the ground to avoid offending the ears of a few environmentalists… etc…”. This is about the Boeing 707 he prepares to fly.

    It looks like these manoeuvers have been around since practically the Wright brothers. Why some raise the question every now and then is ludicrous.

  6. @peter I’ve had a few takeoffs on the short runway at DCA in regional jets that have been fun. Pilot hits the gas but holds the brake to build up speed and then WHAM. I’m not saying it’s like an aircraft carrier but one can imagine. Once this happened with a very light passenger load in an EMB-145 and we were off the ground before we crossed the main runway. Airborne in a couple hundred feet. I liked it, pilots did warn beforehand

  7. Someone should suggest they use the SNA climb, and pilots should give the same warning as they do before take off at SNA. Only thing I don’t know is whether 787s or 350s can do that since they don’t land at SNA.

  8. Sounds like a lot of fun to me. It won’t kill the pilots to do a bit of actual work in the cockpit instead of putting their feet up while the computers do everything. Can’t believe they moan about this in a time when so many pilots are out of a job.

  9. What a bunch of whingers! That doesn’t sound unusual, unsafe, or nauseating at all! As some commentators mentioned, happens pretty frequently. Note as well that this is only during periods of easterly winds. It’s what they get paid to do, so they should just do it.

  10. So they make the turn at just under 600ft AGL. Dont know that I understand the issue. Runway 13 approach to Kai Tak (the Checkerboard approach) was way sportier. Not to mention the left hand turn required by Concorde out of JFK.

    I think this is much ado about nothing.

  11. Snowflake pilots? Ask them to take off and land in some crazy airports in Latin America and they won’t just puke but sh.. their pants.

  12. Ben,

    Any chance you could add a diagram showing the headings and the turn? I’m having trouble picturing what you wrote number wise with your words.

  13. For all the bravado posting here today, it isn’t about whether it makes you sick or even me sick, it’s the small percentage of people who do get sick on planes. People get car sick and sick on giant cruise ships in calm seas. Frankly, I don’t care to be sitting next to someone upchucking on takeoff if it can be avoided. I’m sure as soon as this place opens for business and there’s a shift in the wind, they will know for sure the impact on passengers and crew and make adjustments if the puke ratio is high even if it means burning more fuel. As for the safety concerns of pilots, seems odd that these concerns are just now surfacing. Hopefully, the regulators know what they’re doing.

  14. I’ve flown out of SXF a few times in recent years including the runway that is parallel to the new terminal, in several weather conditions. This does not sound likely or accurate.

  15. Considering all the airports around the world that has tricky landing or take off, it seems like that they got too reliant in automation, that now they are too scared to manually take off or land the plane?

  16. As mentioned above, many takeoffs from DCA require a hard turn immediately after takeoff to avoid the restricted DC and Pentagon airspace. I fly these flights routinely and have never seen anyone get anywhere close to sick as a result of the turn. Is this turn worse? Otherwise, this seems like a ridiculous issue to complain about.

  17. I’ll be honest, these turns stress me the hell out. I have a fear of heights and suddenly being sideways (or what feels like it) over buildings really gets to me.

    I obviously couldn’t say if they’re safe or not, I’m not a pilot… but they definitely don’t feel safe.

  18. It’s one thing for a riskier takeoff/landing process due to terrain, weather, etc (and I think reasonable people can agree that this adds some level of risk), there is no choice. But to do this just to appease NIMBYs is abhorrent. Schonefeld was there long before you were there, you knew the risks. Deal with it or move.

  19. Making a downwind turn at 600′ AGL is not strange or vomit inducing at the airline standard of half standard rate. Most IFR turns on departures are done at 400′ AGL, if they are simply an assigned heading instead of a SID.

    Having to make a downwind turn is not somehow massively workload expanding, especially in a 2 pilot airplane with modern avionics.

    Also, 7R is not a “Southerly” runway. It is primarily East, but also 20 degrees North from an easterly orientation.

  20. N1120A 7R is the southern runway of the paralells. It’s not referring to its heading but location relative to the other runways.

  21. They could always – god forbid – brief the passengers. Bet that would go a long way to mitigating the puke factor.

  22. Thanks Ole & N1120,

    I’m no pilot but I know 90 is east and 270 is west. As an engineer, the description in the article was confusing to me.

  23. Jet pilot here (small corporate jet, not airline).

    The post above from N1120A is accurate.

    There is nothing unusual about this departure procedure.

    At my home airport of Henderson (in the Las Vegas area), the typical departure procedure (https://aeronav.faa.gov/d-tpp/2009/06514PALLY.PDF) involves an 85 degree right turn when taking off from runways 35. This is primarily to avoid McCarran (LAS) airspace.

  24. Probably because they’ll actually have to FLY the plane rather than having automation do it for them. Just sayin.

  25. The LOGAN departure from the 22s in Boston require an 80 degree left turn for noise abatement. Never seemed to be an issue.

  26. Nothing was worse back in the 70’s when I was cabin crew with landing and take off from Madeira airport before they lengthened the runway.

  27. Hmm well the ECA the European component of the largest Pilot group advocating flight safety on the planet (IFALPA0 an organisation that since 1948 has been responsible for advocating most of the innovations in flight safety….thinks one thing but Joe Pax in 22A thinks they’re being pussies….well alrighty then….

  28. I find it interesting that most of the comments speak poorly of pilots and their concerns. ALL of those concerns revolved around passenger safety and comfort. In fact, the article says that a alternate, straight out departure is available, but it will add time to the flight.

    My question is: Since pilots are paid by the hour, and if they are just “whining” without regard for the safety of their passengers, wouldn’t they elect to keep their mouths shut and just utilize the alternate procedure and get paid more? I see a logical disconnect in many of the comments.

  29. In Rio de Janeiro, the runway of domestic Santos Dumont Airport (SDU) is less than 3.5 miles from the big Sugar Loaf mountain.
    Every flight of the Rio – São Paulo route departs with a a sharp left hand turn immediately after takeoff.
    Dozens of daily flight at the most important Brazilian air route without any accidents during Rio de Janeiro departures.

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