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Aircraft take-off performance errors resulting from simple human data calculation or entry occur too frequently but can be avoided or detected, according to an ATSB research report, released today.

The report examines Australian and international occurrences between 1 January 1989 and 30 June 2009 that involved the calculation and entry of erroneous take-off data. It reveals that take-off errors happen for many different reasons such as the wrong figure being used as well as data being entered incorrectly, not being updated, or being excluded.

Importantly, the report identifies that while no one is immune from these types of events, risk can be dramatically reduced through good operating procedures, aircraft automation systems and software design, and clear and complete flight documentation.

The consequences of these sorts of errors can range from aborted take-offs through the tail of the aircraft scraping the runway and, in the extreme, collisions with the ground.

ATSB Chief Commissioner, Mr Martin Dolan, said that while there is no single solution to preventing take-off performance calculation and entry errors, good operating procedures will help to mitigate the risks associated with these errors.

'With each operator using different take-off calculation methods on different types of aircraft, there will never be one solution for eliminating these errors,' Mr Dolan said.

'Good standard operating procedures, such as cross checking all take-off calculations or verifying data using multiple sources, will help detect any errors before the aircraft leaves the gate.'

'We advise operators to consider all the possible errors that could be introduced and then determine if the procedures in place will prevent these errors from occurring or provide opportunity to be detected.'

This ATSB research report expands on previous research by the Laboratory of Applied Anthropology, Boeing and Airbus by providing both an Australian and international perspective on these events. The report also explores why these events occurred by analysing the contributing safety factors.

A copy of the research report, Take-off performance calculation and entry errors: A global perspective, is available on the ATSB website at www.atsb.gov.au

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Last update 01 April 2011