Chapter 5—Takeoff and Departure Climbs

Terms and Definitions
Prior to Takeoff

Normal Takeoff
   Takeoff Roll
   Initial Climb

Crosswind Takeoff
   Takeoff Roll
   Initial Climb

Ground Effect on Takeoff
   Takeoff Roll
   Initial Climb

Soft/Rough-Field Takeoff and Climb
   Takeoff Roll
   Initial Climb

Rejected Takeoff/Engine Failure
Noise Abatement

Table of Contents


Upon lift-off, the airplane should be flying at approximately the pitch attitude that will allow it to accelerate to VY. This is the speed at which the airplane will gain the most altitude in the shortest period of time.

If the airplane has been properly trimmed, some back- elevator pressure may be required to hold this attitude until the proper climb speed is established. On the other hand, relaxation of any back-elevator pressure before this time may result in the airplane settling, even to the extent that it contacts the runway.

The airplane will pick up speed rapidly after it becomes airborne. Once a positive rate of climb is established, the flaps and landing gear can be retracted (if equipped).

It is recommended that takeoff power be maintained until reaching an altitude of at least 500 feet above the surrounding terrain or obstacles. The combination of VY and takeoff power assures the maximum altitude gained in a minimum amount of time. This gives the pilot more altitude from which the airplane can be safely maneuvered in case of an engine failure or other emergency.

Since the power on the initial climb is fixed at the takeoff power setting, the airspeed must be controlled by making slight pitch adjustments using the elevators. However, the pilot should not fixate on the airspeed indicator when making these pitch changes, but should, instead, continue to scan outside to adjust the airplane’s attitude in relation to the horizon. In accordance with the principles of attitude flying, the pilot should first make the necessary pitch change with reference to the natural horizon and hold the new attitude momentarily, and then glance at the airspeed indicator as a check to see if the new attitude is correct. Due to inertia, the airplane will not accelerate or decelerate immediately as the pitch is changed. It takes a little time for the airspeed to change. If the pitch attitude has been over or under corrected, the airspeed indicator will show a speed that is more or less than that desired. When this occurs, the cross-checking and appropriate pitch-changing process must be repeated until the desired climbing attitude is established.

When the correct pitch attitude has been attained, it should be held constant while cross-checking it against the horizon and other outside visual references. The airspeed indicator should be used only as a check to determine if the attitude is correct.

After the recommended climb airspeed has been established, and a safe maneuvering altitude has been reached, the power should be adjusted to the recommended climb setting and the airplane trimmed to relieve the control pressures. This will make it easier to hold a constant attitude and airspeed.

During initial climb, it is important that the takeoff path remain aligned with the runway to avoid drifting into obstructions, or the path of another aircraft that may be taking off from a parallel runway. Proper scanning techniques are essential to a safe takeoff and climb, not only for maintaining attitude and direction, but also for collision avoidance in the airport area.

When the student pilot nears the solo stage of flight training, it should be explained that the airplane’s takeoff performance will be much different when the instructor is out of the airplane. Due to decreased load, the airplane will become airborne sooner and will climb more rapidly. The pitch attitude that the student has learned to associate with initial climb may also differ due to decreased weight, and the flight controls may seem more sensitive. If the situation is unexpected, it may result in increased tension that may remain until after the landing. Frequently, the existence of this tension and the uncertainty that develops due to the perception of an “abnormal” takeoff results in poor performance on the subsequent landing.

Common errors in the performance of normal takeoffs and departure climbs are:

  • Failure to adequately clear the area prior to taxiing into position on the active runway.
  • Abrupt use of the throttle.
  • Failure to check engine instruments for signs of malfunction after applying takeoff power.
  • Failure to anticipate the airplane’s left turning tendency on initial acceleration.
  • Overcorrecting for left turning tendency.
  • Relying solely on the airspeed indicator rather than developed feel for indications of speed and airplane controllability during acceleration and lift-off.
  • Failure to attain proper lift-off attitude.
  • Inadequate compensation for torque/P-factor during initial climb resulting in a sideslip.
  • Over-control of elevators during initial climb-out.
  • Limiting scan to areas directly ahead of the airplane (pitch attitude and direction), resulting in allowing a wing (usually the left) to drop immediately after lift-off.
  • Failure to attain/maintain best rate-of-climb airspeed (VY).
  • Failure to employ the principles of attitude flying during climb-out, resulting in “chasing” the airspeed indicator.

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PED Publication