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Short Field Takeoff

by John White |

The Dangers Of A Short Field TakeoffFor pilots one of the most challenging situations are the short field takeoff. But add to that density altitude and you have even more of a challenge! Over the years I have encountered a number of times when a short field takeoff was required by runway length or density altitude considerations; however, I never trusted the charts to be completely accurate because the aircraft I was flying was not brand new flown by a test pilot. As a result I always added a safety margin.

Short Field Technique

The short field takeoff technique you use will be determined by the type of aircraft you are flying and the recommended procedure for that aircraft. However, there are a few things that remain constant when executing a short field takeoff. Plan the takeoff carefully. Take into account density altitude, runway slope, headwind or lack thereof, et cetera. Make sure you know the value of VX under these conditions, and choose a suitable rotation speed VR as discussed below. Use the proper flap settings, as specified in the Pilot’s Operating Handbook. Here’s a useful cross-check: on most light aircraft, when you extend the flaps for an obstructed-field takeoff, you will observe that the angle of the flap matches the angle of a fully-deflected aileron. Start at the beginning of the runway. If the taxiway leads you onto the runway some distance from the beginning, you will have to back-taxi on the runway, back to the very beginning. Open the throttle smoothly, but not so slowly that you use up significant amounts of runway before the engine reaches full power. Some people advocate using the brakes to hold the aircraft stationary until the engine comes up to full power, but this is rarely necessary; if you open the throttle properly the airplane will move only a few feet while you’re doing so.

Think They Aren't Scary?

Check out this video of a short field takeoff at high altitude with a density altitude component:

Learn More About Short Field Takeoffs

Until next time keep your wings straight and level Hersch! By John White
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