Short Field Takeoff


  • Short field takeoffs are used to obtain maximum performance in order to minimize runway length required [Figure 1]
  • Should be considered when departing from shorter airfields or when obstacles are present
  • Closely related to the performance of flight at minimum controllable airspeeds

All procedures here are GENERALIZED for learning.
Fly the maneuver in accordance with the Pilot Operating Handbook (POH)
and/or current Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs)

C-172S Procedure:

  1. Ensure the before takeoff checklists are complete and flaps set to 10°
  2. Check wind direction indicators, as available, and listen to ATC's wind call when given clearance for takeoff
    • ATC: "[Callsign], [Wind], cleared for takeoff [Runway]"
      • Example: "Cessna One Seven Two Seven Victor, wind two seven zero at one zero, cleared for takeoff runway two six"
  3. Check the approach path is clear and then taxi into takeoff position
    • Crossing the hold short call Lights (nav/strobe/landing), Camera (transponder), Action (mixture/flaps/trim/fuel pump, if required"
    • Utilize all runway possible, positioning the flight controls for existing wind conditions
    • Full yoke into the wind
  4. Firmly depress the brake pedals to ensure holding the airplane in position during full power run-up
  5. Smoothly and continuously apply full throttle, checking engine instruments and tachometer (RPM)
    • ICS: "Engine instruments in the green"
  6. Release the brakes, maintaining directional control and runway centerline with the rudder pedals
    • Lower feet to the floor (toes on rudders, not brakes)
  7. As you start to roll, monitor your airspeed
    • ICS: "Airspeed Alive"
    • Keep in right rudder and some left aileron to counteract p-factor crosswind effect as required
    • As you accelerate, the aircraft must be flown and not taxied, requiring smaller inputs
  8. At Vr, call out, "Vr, Rotate" and increase control yoke back pressure to pitch up (approx. 11°-12°)
    • Vr is 51 KIAS, or as recommended for lower takeoff weight
    • Smoothly pitch up or the aircraft may delay a climb
    • Forcing the aircraft off the ground may leave it stuck in ground effect or stall [Figure 2]
    • During gust conditions, the pilot should remain on the deck a little longer
  9. After liftoff, establish and maintain obstacle clearance speed (56 KIAS, or as recommended for takeoff weight) until all obstacles are cleared (50' AGL), while maintaining the flight path over the runway centerline
    • Trim as necessary
    • Use of the rudders may be required to keep the airplane headed straight down the runway, avoiding P-factor
    • The remainder of the climb technique is the same used for normal takeoffs and climbs
  10. With a positive rate of climb and no available landing area remaining, depress the brake pedals, call out, "Positive Climb"
  11. With obstacles cleared, lower the pitch to begin accelerating to Vy (74 KIAS)
  12. At or above 65 KIAS, retract the flaps to 0°
    • Establish and maintain Vy
    • Trim as necessary
    • Avoid drifting off centerline or into obstructions, or the path of another aircraft that may be taking off from a parallel runway
  13. During the climb out (no less than 200' AGL), lower nose momentarily to ensure that the airspace ahead is clear, and then re-establish Vy, while maintaining flight path over extended runway centerline
    • Trim as required
  14. At 500' AGL, lower the pitch (approx. 7-8°) to establish and maintain a cruise climb (85 KIAS)

  15. NOTE:
    Maintain Vy if climb performance warrants

  16. Execute a departure procedure or remain in the traffic pattern, as appropriate

  17. NOTE:
    If remaining in the traffic pattern, leave the auxiliary fuel pump switch in the ON position

  18. Complete the climb flow/checklist, when appropriate
  19. Execute a departure procedure or remain in the traffic pattern as appropriate

Short Field Takeoff
Figure 1: Airplane Flying Handbook, Short field takeoff

Effect of premature lift-off
Figure 2: Airplane Flying Handbook, Effect of premature lift-off

Common Errors:

  • Failure to adequately clear the area prior to taxiing into position on the active runway
  • Insufficient back-elevator pressure during initial takeoff roll, resulting in inadequate angle of attack
  • Failure to cross-check engine instruments for indicators of proper operation after applying power
  • Poor directional control
  • Climbing too steeply after liftoff
  • Abrupt and/or excessive elevator control while attempting to level off and accelerate after lift-off
  • Allowing the airplane to "mush" or settle, resulting in an inadvertent touchdown after liftoff
  • Attempting to climb out of ground effect area before attaining sufficient climb speed
  • Failure to anticipate an increase in pitch attitude as the airplane climbs out of ground effect

Practical Test Standards:


  • Takeoff (and landing) factors are dependent on: thrust, weight, lift, drag, and friction (runway surfaces)