SOFT FIELD TAKEOFF AND CLIMB

Soft Field Takeoff and Climb Lesson by wifiCFI


Objective

To determine that the applicant exhibits satisfactory knowledge, risk management, and skills associated with a soft-field takeoff, climb operations, and rejected takeoff procedures. 

Knowledge

The applicant demonstrates understanding of: 

Effects of atmospheric conditions, including wind, on takeoff and climb performance. 

VX and VY. 

Appropriate aircraft configuration.

Ground effect.

Importance of weight transfer from wheels to wings. 

Left turning tendencies.

Risk Management

The applicant demonstrates the ability to identify, assess and mitigate risks, encompassing: 

Selection of runway based on pilot capability, aircraft performance and limitations, available distance, and wind. 

Effects of: 

Crosswind, to include exceeding maximum demonstrated crosswind component 

Wind shear

Tailwind

Wake turbulence 

Runway surface/condition/length 

Abnormal operations, to include planning for: 

Rejected takeoff 

Engine failure in takeoff/climb phase of flight 

Collision hazards to include aircraft, terrain, obstacles, and wires. 

Low altitude maneuvering/stall/spin. 

Distractions, loss of situational awareness, and/or improper task management.

Soft-Field Takeoff and Climb (AFH C5)

Takeoffs and climbs from soft fields require the use of operational techniques for getting the airplane airborne as quickly as possible to eliminate the drag caused by tall grass, soft sand, mud, and snow and may require climbing over an obstacle. 

The technique makes judicious use of ground effect to reduce landing gear drag and requires an understanding of the airplane’s slow speed characteristics and responses. 

These same techniques are also useful on a rough field where the pilot should get the airplane off the ground as soon as possible to avoid damaging the landing gear.

Takeoff Roll

As the airplane is aligned with the takeoff path, the pilot should apply takeoff power smoothly and as rapidly as the powerplant can accept without faltering. 

As the airplane accelerates, the pilot should apply enough back-elevator pressure to establish a positive AOA and to reduce the weight supported by the nose-wheel. 

When the airplane is held at a nose-high attitude throughout the takeoff run, the wings increasingly relieve the wheels of the airplane’s weight as speed increases and lift develops, thereby minimizing the drag caused by surface irregularities or adhesion.

Liftoff

After the airplane becomes airborne, the pilot should gently lower the nose with the wheels clear of the surface to allow the airplane to accelerate to VY, or VX if obstacles must be cleared. 

Immediately after the airplane becomes airborne and while it accelerates, the pilot should be aware that, while transitioning out of the ground effect area, the airplane will have a tendency to settle back onto the surface. 

An attempt to climb prematurely or too steeply may cause the airplane to settle back to the surface as a result of the loss of ground effect. 

During the transition out of the ground effect area, the pilot should not attempt to climb out of ground effect before reaching the sufficient climb airspeed, as this may result in the airplane being unable to climb further, even with full power applied. 

Therefore, it is essential that the airplane remain in ground effect until at least VX is reached.

Initial Climb

After a positive rate of climb is established, and the airplane has accelerated to VY, the pilot should retract the landing gear and flaps, if equipped. 

If departing from an airstrip with wet snow or slush on the takeoff surface, the gear should not be retracted immediately so that any wet snow or slush to be air-dried. 

In the event an obstacle must be cleared after a soft-field takeoff, the pilot should perform the climb-out at VX until the obstacle has been cleared. 

The pilot should then adjust the pitch attitude to VY and retract the gear and flaps. 

The power can then be reduced to the normal climb setting. 

The pilot may then reduce power to normal climb setting.

Private Pilot ACS 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 the takeoff position and align the airplane on the runway centerline.

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 ACS 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 the takeoff position and align the airplane on the runway centerline.

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 +/-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. 

Common Errors

Failure to review AFM/POH and performance charts prior to takeoff. 

Failure to adequately clear the area. 

Insufficient back-elevator pressure during initial takeoff roll resulting in inadequate AOA. 

Failure to cross-check engine instruments for indications of proper operation after applying power. 

Poor directional control. 

Climbing too high after lift-off and not leveling off low enough to maintain ground effect altitude. 

Abrupt and/or excessive elevator control while attempting to level off and accelerate after liftoff. 

Allowing the airplane to “mush” or settle resulting in an inadvertent touchdown after lift-off. 

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.

FAA Sources Used for This Lesson

Private Pilot Airmen Certification Standards

Commercial Pilot Airmen Certification Standards

Airplane Flying Handbook (AFH) Chapter 5

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