Short Field Takeoff & Climb


  • 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
Crosswind Component Chart
Short Field Takeoff Performance

Determining Short Field Takeoff Performance:

  • Use the chart for all performance data specific to an aircraft, in this example, a Cessna 172
  • Typically, there will be more than one chart for the same thing, separated by weight or aircraft configuration conditions
  • Always round up if your weight is not close to the reference weights they provide, this is because takeoff data will never improve with weight and therefore your numbers will be more conservative and provide a safety margin
    • Conditions:

      • Aircraft Weight: 2300lbs
      • Altitude: 3,000' MSL
      • 20°C Outside Air Temperature
    • Chart:

      [Figure 4]
      • Starting at the left with the altitude, continue right across the chart until you reach the appropriate temperature
      • We expect a 1,100' takeoff without obstacles and 1,970' with a 50' obstacle
        • With a headwind of 9 knots, we can expect 990' takeoff without obstacles and 1,773' with a 50' obstacle
        • With a tailwind of 4 knots, we can expect 1,320' takeoff without obstacles and 2,364' with a 50' obstacle
Crosswind Component Chart
Short Field Takeoff Performance

C-172S Procedure:

All procedures here are GENERALIZED for learning.
Always fly in accordance with Pilot Operating Handbooks (POHs)
and/or current Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs)

  1. Complete the Before Takeoff Flows/Checklists, to include a takeoff brief
  2. Set flaps to 10°
  3. 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"
  4. 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 available runway available (i.e., taxi straight ahead before aligning with the runway centerline) while positioning the flight control as appropriate for the wind conditions
    • Ensure you roll forward enough to straighten the nose/tailwheel
    • Verify heading indicator/magnetic compass are for that of the active runway
    • Apply full yoke into the wind
  5. Firmly depress the brake pedals to ensure holding the airplane in position during full power run-up
  6. Smoothly and continuously apply full throttle, checking engine instruments and tachometer (RPM)
    • ICS: "Engine instruments in the green"
  7. Release the brakes, maintaining directional control and runway centerline with the rudder pedals
    • Lower feet to the floor (toes on rudders, not brakes)
  8. 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
  9. At Vr (or as recommended for lower takeoff weight), call out, "Vr, Rotate" and increase control yoke back pressure to pitch up
    • 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
  10. After liftoff, establish and maintain obstacle clearance speeduntil 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
  11. With a positive rate of climb and no available landing area remaining, depress the brake pedals, call out, "Positive Climb"
  12. With obstacles cleared, lower the pitch to begin accelerating to Vy (74 KIAS)
  13. At or above safe flying speed , 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
  14. 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
  15. At 500' AGL, lower the pitchto establish and maintain a cruise climb

  16. NOTE:
    Maintain Vy if climb performance warrants

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

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

  19. Complete the climb flow/checklist, when appropriate
  20. Execute a departure procedure or remain in the traffic pattern as appropriate
Short Field Takeoff
Airplane Flying Handbook, Short field takeoff
Effect of premature lift-off
Airplane Flying Handbook, Effect of premature lift-off

Short Field Takeoff and Climb 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

Short Field takeoff and Climb Airman Certification Standards:


  • Takeoff (and landing) factors are dependent on: thrust, weight, lift, drag, and friction (runway surfaces)
  • Consider practicing maneuvers on a flight simulator to introduce yourself to maneuvers or knock off rust