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
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)