Flight Safety for Circuit Training

  1. The risk of collision with other aircraft is greatest in the vicinity of an airport.  Keep your eyes checking outside the cockpit.
  2. Always be conscious of the clearances issued by the tower controller.  The greatest risk for collision occurs when pilots are cleared “to position” on the runway, but then takeoff without a clearance, either forgetting that they have not been so authorized, or misinterpreting the clearance that has been issued.  The danger in these situations is that the controller has likely held the aircraft on the runway (and delayed the takeoff clearance) for the purpose of allowing a hovering helicopter to cross from one side of the runway to the other (see preceding page—left).  In such cases, if the pilot mistakenly takes off, it is quite likely that the pilot will not see the helicopter approaching from the side (attention will be focused on the takeoff roll, as well as the position and control of the aircraft), and because the rolling aircraft will be at or just above the stall speed, control of the aircraft—and thus the ability to manoeuvre away from an impending collision—will be marginal at best.1
  3. Clarity with respect to who has control during circuit training, especially during the flare and landing phase, is crucial.  Your Instructor will provide verbal prompting and occasional physical assistance while you have control over the aircraft.  Do not use a “monkey grip” on the control column and be aware of the brief corrective inputs your Instructor makes.  If absolute control by the Instructor is required, he or she will call you off the control column and rudder (e.g., “I have control”), at which time you must immediately release all control pressures.2

Further Readings 

AOPA's Anatomy of a Runway Incursion

AOPA's Collision Avoidance: Strategies and Tactics


1 Because of the frequency of these hazardous incidents (student taking off without a clearance), Langley Flying School instituted in 1999 that all clearances related to movement onto a runway—whether a clearance “to hold,” or a clearance to takeoff—must be “readback” to the controller.  Quite likely, Transport Canada will prosecute any students who take off without a clearance, simply because of the high risks involved.

2 While control pressure is released, you should continue to follow-though the corrective inputs of the Instructor.