There’s a lot of things happening during takeoff, but the key to proficiency is lots of practice. After you learn the general steps of a takeoff, you need to rehearse them again and again while chair-flying. Takeoff is busy, and without muscle memory you’ll always be behind the airplane.
Landing is equally busy, but we’ll focus on just the takeoff for now. To learn to land you’ll need the full course 😉
The takeoff process starts before you even get on the runway:
Briefing: Sometime before departing, you should accomplish a departure brief, including information like which runway you will use, which direction you will depart, turns you’ll make, etc. You also want to brief what you’ll do if your engine fails.
“Weather today is clear skies with a light wind out of the southwest. We’ll plan to taxi to runway 17 via the ramp and taxiway A. On departure, we’ll accomplish a normal takeoff, followed by a 25° turn at the end of the runway for noise abatement. Afterwards, we’ll depart the traffic pattern on the downwind leg. If we experience any engine problems on takeoff, we’ll land straight ahead, or if altitude permits, fly to the empty grass field on the north side of the airport.”
Getting on the Runway: Make a radio call or receive a takeoff clearance and line up on the runway. Scan for traffic as you line up.
Let’s go! Add full power and start the takeoff roll. On the roll, verify and call out (1) “gauges green” and (2) “airspeed alive”. On the roll you’ll need to add and continually modify rudder pressure to keep the nose on the centerline.
Rotate! As you near takeoff speed, raise the nose to a climb pitch attitude and wait. When you have enough speed, the airplane will lift off the ground.
Climb: Maintain your climb pitch attitude and adjust it as necessary to climb at Vx or Vy. Maintain sufficient rudder pressure to keep the wings level and pitch trim sufficient to hold the nose at climb attitude.
Aim to be sufficiently trimmed that you could take your hands off the yoke/stick (for a few seconds) by a few hundred feet. This ability greatly enhances your situational awareness and skill as a pilot.
While this skill is difficult at first, in short order it will reduce your task load during climb out. It also mentally ingrains your understanding of the changing aerodynamic forces through a climb (for instance, you’ll notice if you increase climb pitch, you’ll need to retrim and add more rudder). Note that even though you want to be trimmed to be able to let go of the controls, many instructors and examiners will still prefer you keep your hands on. This is particularly true for the throttle, as many vernier throttle handles tend to work themselves backwards from vibration and pitch angle on climb out. Finally, perform the after takeoff checklist.
- Why do we call “gauges green, airspeed alive” on the takeoff roll?
- How might different airport layouts require you to change your plan in the event of an engine failure?
- During takeoff, we rotate to a pitch attitude that will cause us to lift up. This is opposed to pulling back until we lift off. What is the difference, and why is it important?
- Why is it important to keep your hand on the throttle during climb out?
- Why should you trim the airplane and hold sufficient rudder pressure on climb out?