Airplane Normal Takeoff

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If you have learned your lessons well out in the practice area and can put to use the principles of slow flight, stalls, straight and level, and all the rest, the normal takeoff will hold few surprises for you. As I taxi onto the active runway, I always do a little mental jog I call my FFT check. It’s a last check of the three most often overlooked items on your pretakeoff checklist. I call them the “killers” since a takeoff with one of these items set incorrectly can lead to dire consequences. FFT stands for fuel, flaps, and trim. As I think “fuel, flaps, and trim,” I carefully check each one to be sure it is indeed in the takeoff setting. Some pilots have come to a sorry realization at a very inopportune time that one of these wasn’t set correctly. One memorable event that cost many lives occurred to the crew of an MD-80 at Detroit, who attempted a takeoff with the flaps in the wrong position. This very preventable human mistake could have been avoided with a simple last-minute check that the fuel was on and that the flaps and the trim were set correctly.

When cleared, taxi onto the runway at the end. Don’t waste 200 yards of that precious runway weaving back and forth to line up with the centerline. Go right to it. Line the longitudinal axis (noseto-tail axis) with the centerline of the runway, and smoothly apply full power. You might need a little right rudder as the power is applied to overcome torque. Feel the controls begin to become effective as your speed increases. Glance quickly at the oil pressure and airspeed indicator, then get your eyes back outside where the action is. If you keep your eyes in the cockpit too long, there might be more action waiting for you out there than you want.

As the aircraft gains speed and the controls become more effective, use small control inputs to maintain your line straight down the runway. One of the most common errors in primary flight is the tendency to overcontrol, especially the rudder. However, be sure to use whatever it takes. Don’t go the other way and be too timid with the controls either.

When you reach the rotation speed for your particular aircraft, smoothly apply a little backpressure and lift off. The aircraft should be rotated so that you will be at an angle that produces a climb at about Vy (best rate-of-climb speed). If you find this a little difficult at first, don’t feel alone. The proper amount of rotation will come with a little time and practice.

Okay, now you’re airborne and climbing out at Vy. Trim the aircraft to help maintain airspeed while you glance around to verify that you are climbing straight out from the runway centerline. Any drift should be corrected for by the use of the crab technique. Remember that you learned to correct for wind when you learned ground track procedures. Now is the time to put that knowledge to practical use.

The FAA recommends climbing to at least 500 feet above the ground before turning out of the pattern. Another suggestion is to climb straight ahead until you reach the end of the runway. Unless otherwise directed by the tower, do whichever comes last.

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