Soft and Short Fields, II
Most aircraft accidents occur during the take-off and landing phase of the flight. Collisions with obstacles during climb out, runway overruns on landing occur every now and then. In this section of the site we will take a look at the various factors contributing to the performance of the aircraft in this part of the flight. Hopefully we help the pilot ensuring safe operation during these phases of the flight as the rules require that of the pilot in command.
Making good soft and short field take-offs isn't black art. It is a maximum performance maneuver which most of us learned to do for their checkride but it is not practiced very often afterwards.
Preparing for take-off, especially in high density altitudes, needs to be done with care. Even more so when the runway is soft and or short.
This is the optional part of flying although for some of us it has become an addiction. During flight training you should become intimately familiar with take-offs and landings.
Soft or rough grass field
This is like a soft field landing but then in reverse. Make sure that all checks are done, flaps are set and full back pressure on the yoke/stick. Keep the aircraft rolling and turn on the runway without stopping (remember: wet and soft surface). Gradually apply full power and maintain back pressure; when the nose gear lifts keep it from going any higher by relaxing the back pressure a little but keep the nose gear off the runway.
As soon as the aircraft wants to fly, take-off, but keep it in ground effect. Lower the nose a bit, let the aircraft accelerate and initiate the climb-out at VX. After clearing any obstacles (> 50ft) climb-out at VY and at a safe altitude (> 500 ft AGL), retract flaps and continue with VCC (cruise climb speed) until you reach your cruise altitude. Always keep an eye on engine temperatures during the climb.
Good short field technique is needed to get off the runway in the shortest possible distance and to remain clear of any obstacles. Set flaps as per manufacturer directions (some types do not use flaps as climb performance is impaired), position the aircraft at the very beginning of the runway, apply full brakes and bring the engine to maximum power (make sure the engine is at operating temperatures).
Wait about two seconds for the engine/propeller to stabilize RPM and then release the brakes, be prepared for the left turning effects (slipstream and torque). Rotate at the correct airspeed and climb out at VX. After clearing obstacles or 200 ft AGL, lower the nose and continue climb at VY. Keep and watchful eye on engine temperatures, especially on warm days. Retract flaps (if selected) after reaching a safe altitude and accelerate to cruise climb speed.
After take-off climb until reaching 500' AAL, raise flaps, lower the nose and set climb power. Remember to reduce manifold first with the throttle and then the RPM with the propeller control, see: controlling aircraft propellers. Those of you flying with a single power lever (fixed pitch propeller or FADEC) airplane only have to set climb power, the system controls the propeller/throttle setting.
When all obstacles are cleared reconfigure the aircraft to cruise climb airspeed and leave the area following the published procedures. Make sure to keep a good lookout throughout the whole departure phase as aircraft approaching the airfield too.
Before attempting any high performance maneuver and when transitioning to a different aircraft make sure to read the Pilot Operating Handbook and get thorough training with a qualified instructor or a safety pilot familiar with the type of aircraft you intend to use. Practicing these techniques will make you as close to perfect as you are able too and keeping these skills sharp means that when the time comes, you are prepared, proficient and ready.