Home Boeing Boeing 737 What is RTO on Boeing 737? (Rejected Take-Off)

What is RTO on Boeing 737? (Rejected Take-Off)

When it comes to aviation safety, every aspect of a flight is carefully considered and planned, including the take-off phase. However, in certain situations, an aircraft may need to abort its take-off, leading to what is known as a Rejected Take-Off (RTO). This article will delve into the concept of RTO specifically in relation to the Boeing 737, one of the most widely used aircraft in the world.

An RTO occurs when a pilot decides to discontinue the take-off roll and bring the aircraft to a stop before becoming airborne. This decision is typically made due to a critical situation or an anomaly identified during the take-off roll. The primary objective of an RTO is to ensure the safety of the passengers, crew, and the aircraft itself.

During an RTO, the pilot engages various systems on the Boeing 737 to safely bring the aircraft to a halt. These systems include the brakes, spoilers, thrust reversers (if applicable), and auto-brakes. The pilot applies maximum braking effort to decelerate the aircraft as quickly as possible to a safe stop. Additionally, if reverse thrust is available on the engines, it can be used to enhance braking performance.

Reasons for Rejected Take-Off

There are several reasons why an RTO may be initiated on a Boeing 737. Let’s explore some of the most common ones:

1. Engine Failure

An engine failure is a serious situation that can occur during the take-off roll. In the event of an engine failure, the pilot will immediately abort the take-off and bring the aircraft to a stop. This is done to prevent any further damage to the engine and to ensure the safety of the passengers and crew onboard.

Depending on the severity of the failure, the pilot may also need to initiate an emergency evacuation of the aircraft. The Boeing 737 is equipped with multiple systems to assist in such situations, including fire suppression systems and emergency escape slides.

2. Malfunctioning Systems

During the take-off roll, the pilot closely monitors various systems on the Boeing 737 to ensure their proper functioning. If any critical system malfunctions, such as the flight control system or the landing gear, the pilot may decide to abort the take-off.

The pilot’s decision to initiate an RTO in such cases is based on their training, experience, and the specific situation at hand. Safety is always the top priority, and any abnormality or malfunctioning system is taken seriously to avoid potential risks.

3. Bird Strikes

Bird strikes are a common occurrence in aviation, and they can pose a significant threat to the safety of an aircraft during take-off. If a bird strike is observed or suspected by the pilot, they may immediately abort the take-off to prevent any potential damage to the engines or other critical components.

Upon initiating the RTO, the pilot will inform the air traffic control tower of the situation and request necessary assistance or further instructions. The bird strike incident will be documented and thoroughly investigated to identify any preventive measures that can be taken to avoid similar occurrences in the future.

Procedures and Safety Measures

An RTO is a highly critical maneuver that requires coordinated action from both the pilot and the air traffic control tower. Let’s take a closer look at the procedures and safety measures involved in a rejected take-off on a Boeing 737:

1. Pilot Actions

When the pilot decides to initiate an RTO on a Boeing 737, they immediately apply maximum braking effort by pressing the toe brakes. This action activates the auto-brakes, which provide additional braking force to help decelerate the aircraft quickly.

The pilot also engages the spoilers, which are panels on the wings that disrupt the airflow and reduce lift. By raising the spoilers, the pilot further increases the braking effectiveness and facilitates a shorter stopping distance for the aircraft.

2. Air Traffic Control Tower

When an RTO is initiated, the pilot communicates the situation to the air traffic control tower, who will then coordinate with other aircraft and ground services to ensure the safety of the affected aircraft and its occupants.

The air traffic control tower may instruct the pilot regarding the appropriate taxi route, exit point, or further actions to be taken after the aircraft has come to a stop. It is crucial for the pilot to follow these instructions and maintain clear communication with the tower throughout the entire process.


Rejected Take-Off (RTO) is a safety procedure that may be necessary in certain critical situations during the take-off phase of a Boeing 737 flight. Whether it’s an engine failure, malfunctioning systems, or bird strikes, the pilot’s decision to initiate an RTO is centered on ensuring the safety of the passengers, crew, and the aircraft itself.

Boeing has implemented various systems and measures to assist pilots during an RTO, including the use of brakes, spoilers, thrust reversers (if applicable), and auto-brakes. Additionally, effective coordination between the pilot and the air traffic control tower is crucial to ensure a safe and controlled RTO.

By adhering to proper procedures and safety measures, pilots can effectively execute an RTO on a Boeing 737, mitigating potential risks and ensuring the overall safety of the flight. This constant focus on safety is what makes the Boeing 737 one of the most reliable and trusted aircraft in the aviation industry.

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