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Soft Field Takeoff & Climb

Introduction:

  • Soft field takeoffs are used to obtain maximum performance when departing from a soft or rough runway surface
  • Otherwise "hard" surfaces can be made "soft" following rain storms or disturbance
  • These soft and rough surfaces provide unique challenges which may make the aircraft harder to control and reduce acceleration
  • Additionally, with soft and perhaps bumpy surfaces, you are at risk of getting the nose wheel stuck

Soft Field Takeoff and Climb Procedure:

WARNING:
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. Ensure flaps are set
  3. Check Automatic Terminal Information Service (ATIS), wind direction indicators, as available, and listen to the wind call given by ATC when issuing the takeoff clearances
  4. Check the approach path is clear and then taxi into takeoff position
  5. Without stopping the airplane, smoothly and continuously apply full throttle, checking engine instruments and tachometer (RPM) are within their "green" operating range and call-out over the Intercommunication System (ICS)
    • ICS: "Engine instruments in the green"
  6. Keep the nose wheel clear of the runway during the takeoff roll (approx. 7-8°), maintaining directional control and runway centerline with the rudder pedals
    • Lower your feet to the floor ensuring toes are on rudders ONLY, and not the brakes
  7. As you start to roll, monitor your airspeed and engine instruments
    • ICS: "Airspeed Alive, Engine Instruments in the Green"
    • 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. As the main wheels lift off the runway, lower the pitch attitude to establish and maintain a level flight attitude, while remaining in ground effect, and accelerating to obstacle clearance speed or the speed recommended for lower takeoff weights
    • If no obstacles present:

      • Establish a Vy climb attitude
      • Establish and maintain Vy, while maintaining the flight path over the runway centerline
      • Trim as necessary
    • If obstacles present:

      • Establish and maintain obstacle clearance speed (Vx), or as recommended for lower takeoff weights until all obstacles are cleared
      • Maintain the flight path over the runway centerline
      • Trim as necessary
  9. After liftoff, establish and maintain obstacle clearance speed until all obstacles are cleared (50' AGL), while maintaining the flight path over the runway centerline
    • 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 depress the brake pedals, call out, "Positive Climb"
  11. With no runway remaining, raise the landing gear, if appropriate
    • If remaining in the traffic pattern, leave the landing gear down so as not to forget to lower them later
  12. With obstacles cleared, lower the pitch to begin accelerating to Vy
  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 pitch to establish and maintain a cruise climb
    • Maintain Vy if climb performance warrants
  16. Execute a departure procedure, or remain in the traffic pattern, as appropriate
    • If remaining in the traffic pattern, leave the auxiliary fuel pump switch in the ON position
  17. Complete the climb flow/checklist, when appropriate
Soft Field Takeoff
Airplane Flying Handbook, Soft field takeoff

Noise Abatement:

  • Aircraft noise problems are a major concern at many airports throughout the country. Many local communities have pressured airports into developing specific operational procedures that help limit aircraft noise while operating over nearby areas. As a result, noise abatement procedures have been developed for many of these airports that include standardized profiles and procedures to achieve these lower noise goals
  • Airports that have noise abatement procedures provide information to pilots, operators, air carriers, air traffic facilities, and other special groups that are applicable to their airport. These procedures are available to the aviation community by various means. Most of this information comes from the Chart Supplements, local and regional publications, printed handouts, operator bulletin boards, safety briefings, and local air traffic facilities
  • At airports that use noise abatement procedures, reminder signs may be installed at the taxiway hold positions for applicable runways to remind pilots to use and comply with noise abatement procedures on departure. Pilots who are not familiar with these procedures should ask the tower or air traffic facility for the recommended procedures. In any case, pilots should be considerate of the surrounding community while operating their airplane to and from such an airport. This includes operating as quietly, and safely as possible

Soft 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
  • Allowing the airplane to pitch up excessively, causing a tail strike
  • 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

Soft Field Takeoff and Climb Airman Certification Standards:

  • Private Pilot Standards:

    • Complete the appropriate checklist
    • Make radio calls as appropriate
    • Verify assigned/correct runway
    • Ascertain wind direction with or without visible wind direction indicators
    • Position the flight controls for the existing wind conditions
    • Clear the area, taxi into takeoff position and align the airplane on the runway centerline without stopping, while advancing the throttle smoothly to takeoff power
    • Confirm takeoff power and proper engine and flight instrument indications prior to rotation
    • Establish and maintain a pitch attitude that will transfer the weight of the airplane from the wheels to the wings as rapidly as possible
    • Lift off at the lowest possible airspeed and remain in ground effect while accelerating to Vx or Vy, as appropriate
    • Establish a pitch attitude for Vx or Vy, as appropriate, and maintain selected airspeed +10/-5 knots during the climb
    • Retract landing gear and flaps after a positive rate of climb has been verified or in accordance with aircraft manufacturer’s guidance
    • Maintain Vx or Vy +10/-5 knots to a safe maneuvering altitude
    • Maintain directional control and proper wind-drift correction throughout takeoff and climb
    • Comply with noise abatement procedures
  • Commercial Pilot Standards:

    • Complete the appropriate checklist
    • Make radio calls as appropriate
    • Verify assigned/correct runway
    • Ascertain wind direction with or without visible wind direction indicators
    • Position the flight controls for the existing wind conditions
    • Clear the area, taxi into takeoff position and align the airplane on the runway centerline without stopping, while advancing the throttle smoothly to takeoff power
    • Confirm takeoff power and proper engine and flight instrument indications prior to rotation
    • Establish and maintain a pitch attitude that will transfer the weight of the airplane from the wheels to the wings as rapidly as possible
    • Lift off at the lowest possible airspeed consistent with safety and remain in ground effect while accelerating to Vx or Vy, as appropriate
    • Establish a pitch attitude for Vx or Vy, as appropriate, and maintain selected airspeed +/-5 knots during the climb
    • Retract landing gear and flaps after a positive rate of climb has been verified or in accordance with aircraft manufacturer’s guidance
    • Maintain Vx or Vy +/-5 knots to a safe maneuvering altitude
    • Maintain directional control and proper wind-drift correction throughout takeoff and climb
    • Comply with noise abatement procedures

Case Studies:

  • NTSB Identification: WPR14CA009: The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident to be: The pilot's decision to continue the takeoff from a wet and soft airstrip which resulted in his failure to maintain adequate airspeed and aircraft control during the takeoff initial climb

Conclusion:

References: