|The following stories from the Aug. 24, 2012, edition of AOPA ePilot were provided to AOPA members who expressed an interest in the particular subject areas. Any AOPA member can receive information tailored to their areas of interest by updating their preferences online|
Ready to roll?
Takeoff is a brief phase of flight, a product of preparation, decisions about technique, and contingency planning.
Before any takeoff, you are required to comply with a regulation on preflight action that calls for you to familiarize yourself with runway lengths, and takeoff and landing distances provided in your aircraft’s approved flight manual. Consider the Air Safety Institute’s 50/50 rule of thumb. The institute recommends adding 50 percent to the pilot’s operating handbook takeoff or landing distance over a 50-foot obstacle. For example, if the distance over the obstacle requires 1,600 feet, add 800 feet for a safety distance of 2,400 feet.
Your preflight inspection and your pre-takeoff checklist, which includes checking magneto function, setting the fuel-air mixture, and verifying that the fuel selector is properly positioned, provide assurance that the aircraft is ready to fly.
What takeoff technique will you use? If departing via the short-field method, be sure to use all available runway. If there is an obstacle to clear, review the recommended climb speed to maintain until well clear. For a soft-field takeoff, the key to proper execution is to break ground promptly, and then accelerate in ground effect until reaching an airspeed that allows you an efficient climb with full control authority.
Whether departing via the short- or soft-field method, be sure to apply control deflection for any crosswind during the takeoff run. Then correct for drift in the climb.
Suppose the runway has a displaced threshold. Can you use the entire runway for your takeoff? (See the Oct. 1, 2004, “Training Tip: Displaced thresholds.”)
Where is your abort point? Select a visible point before you roll. Obviously a rough-running engine is a reason to abort, but other concerns—sluggish acceleration, losing directional control in gusty winds, or an anomalous instrument indication—could prompt the decision. Your aircraft should produce a stated rpm when takeoff power is applied. Check early in the run for that performance. One rule of thumb is to discontinue takeoff if you have not achieved 70 percent of liftoff speed halfway down the runway.
Speaking of technique, firm, not abrupt throttle application will provide a smooth, straight takeoff roll. Similar smoothness at rotation will deliver a liftoff free of wallowing. This is something to practice on all training flights.
Remember to calculate takeoff and climb performance based on actual conditions. High elevation, temperature, and the aircraft’s loading can erode or even retard your aircraft’s ability to become airborne and climb. Estimating performance may not provide an accurate result as a recent, well-publicized takeoff accident illustrated.
A safe takeoff is a careful blend of aircraft performance, pilot decision making, and technique.
Free learn to fly e-book
Private pilot Ted Seastrom says he wished he’d known about some of the pitfalls that can occur with flight training. That’s why he wrote a book about it and is now offering it as a free download. Learning to Fly an Airplane is not a how-to book, says Seastrom, but rather a look at each stage of the training process and a discussion of the pitfalls and unexpected challenges that can occur. “As a recent student, I believe you will improve your chances for success if you know more about flight training going in. You’ll definitely have more fun and less frustration,” he says. The book is available at his website.
Note: Products listed have not been evaluated by ePilot editors unless otherwise noted. AOPA assumes no responsibility for products or services listed or for claims or actions by manufacturers or vendors.
Question: While practicing takeoffs and landings at my local airport, I frequently have close encounters with birds that fly in the vicinity of the airport. What is the recommended procedure for avoiding a bird strike?
Answer: According to section 7-4-1 of the Aeronautical Information Manual , a pilot should climb to avoid a bird strike because bird flocks will typically fly downward. If you observe a large flock of birds while in flight, consider reporting their current position, altitude, and general direction of flight to the nearest ATC facility or FSS, as well as to airport management. If you are involved in a bird strike incident, you can report it using an online electronic form. For more information on bird strikes and how to avoid them, read AOPA’s subject report, Bird/Wildlife Strikes.
Got a question for our technical services staff? Email [email protected] or call the Pilot Information Center, 800/872-2672. Don’t forget the online archive of “Final Exam” questions and answers, searchable by keyword or topic.