It’s a Blast But It’s Not Fun
During takeoff and some taxi maneuvers, the high thrust levels of modern jet engines can produce exhaust wakes that present a significant hazard to other aircraft operating on or near the airport surface. The jet blast incidents presented in this CALLBACK highlight the need for both Pilots and Air Traffic Controllers to be aware of the circumstances where this hazard can occur and take measures to avoid jet blast or prevent it.
The three events below deal with aircraft versus aircraft scenarios that occurred in the runway environment. Jet blast (or prop wash) can also occur in the ramp area where it poses a risk to vehicles and ground personnel as well.
While most general aviation pilots think of wake turbulence and jet blast as being issues that primarily concern pilots of small planes, it should be noted that even “big on big” can have problems. A little Cessna 150 can receive the same surprise some of these pilots did when caught by the surprise of a Barron in the middle of a high power run up. Don’t count on the tower to prevent prop and jet blast from being a problem. As the PIC, this is your job.
Taxi Versus Landing
Fortunately, the Pilot at the controls of this C172 was experienced enough to handle an unexpected blast from a widebody jet powering through a turn.
■ During landing roll-out, a taxiing widebody turning left onto a taxiway, jet-blasted the C172 in which I was the CFI. Our aircraft became airborne momentarily and the tail of the aircraft was pushed strongly to the left. I did manage to keep control and prevented any damage to the runway or the aircraft. I believe that if an inexperienced pilot had control of the aircraft, the outcome could have been much worse. I can only imagine what the outcome could have been if we were still airborne. ATC did not advise of, nor seem to notice the hazard of this jet blast. The widebody transport was taxing slowly around the turn and it is possible he was using one engine to taxi with a lot of power in the turn. I think that the airport should not allow these aircraft to taxi with one engine. ATC should not allow anyone to land near widebody aircraft when this type of hazard is possible. Or they should not let this size of aircraft use those taxiways when the adjacent runway is in use and traffic has clearance to land or takeoff.
Takeoff Versus Landing
As the Captain of an A320 noted, the jet blast of a corporate jet is sufficient to upset a larger aircraft if they are in close proximity.
■ During landing flare on Runway 23, the aircraft suddenly rolled right and shifted right of centerline. The winds were light and there had been no turbulence on the approach so this was totally unexpected. I briefly considered a rejected landing/go-around but was able to roll the airplane level and get back to centerline. After clearing the runway, I queried Ground Control about the situation and learned that a corporate jet had been cleared for takeoff on Runway 18L at Intersection A at the same time we were landing on Runway 23. Due to the very close proximity of Runway 18L intersection A to the touchdown zone of Runway 23, Tower should not be clearing aircraft for takeoff from this point while aircraft are landing on Runway 23…. Encountering jet blast while landing can place the aircraft in an unsafe position very quickly.
Taxi Versus Takeoff
There is no good time to encounter the jet blast of a heavy jet, but as this A319 Captain related, takeoff rotation is a particularly bad time to be “jolted.”
■ At takeoff rotation from Runway 28, we were jolted by the jet blast from a B767 that had crossed Runway 28 and was stopped facing south on Taxiway F, just clear of the runway. We believe the B767 might have been powering up to continue taxi, but his engine thrust was pointed directly at our rotation point for takeoff. As we rolled by with our nose wheel off the ground, we got a severe jolt from his jet blast. Fortunately we had flying speed and became airborne immediately; nevertheless this was a close call. This is potentially unsafe and Tower Controllers should hold takeoffs until jet blast can no longer be a factor.