Take-Offs in Normal Conditions

Flight schools, CFI’s, and FAA statistics will show that next to landings, the most likely time for an accident is during takeoff. Even though you’re less likely to have an accident during takeoff rather than a landing, the results of a take-off accident tend to be much more catastrophic. Fortunately, before you can practice any landing exercises, you’ll need to engage in some sort of take off exercise.

It’s important you don’t let your guard down even during normal takeoff conditions, that is without any type of cross-wind. You should always be alert and aware of all conditions existing in the cockpit and outside of the aircraft.

As you engage in the takeoff sequence you’ll most likely think of it as one continuous motion, but, for the sake of learning all about takeoffs, we’re going to break it down into three distinct steps. The take-off roll, the lift-off, and the climb.

The Take-off Roll

After finishing your run-up procedure and being clear to enter the runway, make sure you’ve completely removed all pressure from the brakes but keep your feet on the rudder pedals. You’ll then add throttle smoothly and without hesitation but without any abrupt changes. You’ve only got a certain amount of runway ahead of you so don’t hesitate to give all the power needed. Also make sure you’re using the entire length of the runway. That may mean you need to taxi back a bit before beginning your takeoff roll.

As you add throttle your going to need to counteract the effects of torque by adding right rudder pressure. As the aircraft begins to move down the runway maintain directional control by using your rudder pedals with purpose but without making dramatic changes. Until you reach the proper airspeed, your nose wheel or tail wheel that will be providing direction control of your aircraft. Once you reach an increased airspeed the rudder will become more effective. Do not, I repeat, do not use your brakes to assist in the steering at this point. In normal wind conditions you want to keep your ailerons in the neutral position.

As your aircraft begins to move forward keep very slight back pressure on the elevator. As your airspeed increases, your elevator will become more effective just as your rudder does. Remember air needs to be moving over your aircraft surfaces in order for them to be effective. Once rotation speed is reached you’re going to want to slightly pull back on the elevator. In most trainers the aircraft will almost pull itself off the ground without much input on the yoke from you. It is critical you do not put too much back pressure on the yoke prior to reaching rotation speed. Because of a phenomenon known as ground effect, you may cause the aircraft to lift off prior to it being fully capable of remaining airborne. There are circumstances, such as a soft field takeoff, where you will want to remain in ground effect while you increase your airspeed. But, in a normal takeoff situation you want to utilize the runway.

The Lift-off

As your aircraft lifts off the runway make note of the nose position in relation to the horizon. You’re going to want to maintain some amount of back pressure in order to maintain your positive rate of climb. Be very conscious of your airspeed during the lift-off procedure but keep your eyes outside of the aircraft as much as possible. As you move off of the runway you’ll need to maintain positive control over your ailerons as well, in order to keep your wings level. DO NOT remove your hand from the throttle.

If you are flying in gusty wind conditions, use as much of the runway as needed to gain a greater than normal airspeed. In gusty conditions, not only will the air speed increase but it can abruptly decrease resulting in a stalled aircraft at low altitude.

The Climb

Once the aircraft has lifted off the runway you’ll enter a stage known as the climb. The airplane should be flying at an attitude which allows it to accelerate to its best rate-of-climb airspeed (this is known as VY). This is the airspeed at which the airplane will gain the most altitude over a given period of time. If you are maintaining the proper attitude you will notice the airplane has a dramatic increase in airspeed just after liftoff. You’ll want to maintain a maximum throttle position until you have reached at least 500 feet above the surrounding terrain. You want to gain as much altitude as quickly as possible in the event of some type of engine or equipment failure. You will need to have as much air below you to allow you to maneuver back to the airport or to find a suitable landing location ahead of you.

Because your throttle position will most likely be fully open, in order to control your airspeed you will need to adjust the aircraft pitch. You won’t make adjustments to the throttle during your takeoff and climb. Keep your eyes outside of the cock, looking for traffic around the airport (this are the most congested area you’ll be flying through). Periodically glance down at your airspeed and make sure you are keeping the proper airspeed for your rate-of-climb.

You may want to use the elevator trim to relieve yourself of the needed back pressure on the yoke to maintain your rate of climb. It’s very important you maintain a straight line heading out from the runway you just departed. This will decrease the potential for interfering with other aircraft in the vicinity of the airport.

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