September 2011 Issue

The First 1000 Feet

Getting best performance on initial climb means pitching for the correct airspeeds and retracting drag producers at the right time.

I’m always amused by pilots and non-pilots alike who express the view that landing is the most challenging portion of a flight. Yes, it can require all of our skills, but so can other segments, even straight-and-level cruising. The degree to which any flight segment poses a greater or lesser challenge depends on weather, terrain, aircraft loading—essentially all the variables we’re trained to consider and for which we compensate during our flight planning and execution. When merely considering the challenges posed, one of the oft-overlooked portions of flight is what comes immediately after the airplane clears the runway on takeoff. Depending on things like density altitude, terrain, weather and aircraft loading, the initial climb to clear obstacles and reach a "safe" altitude easily can be the most challenging flight portion. The combination of variables can conspire to rob us of the relatively marginal performance we have right after liftoff, putting us in the weeds.

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