Private Pilot Maneuvers

How to fly: Soft Field Takeoff

Now we’ll be doing a soft field takeoff. What is a soft field? A soft field is a runway/taxi surface that is grass, water, snow, mud, loose dirt, soft gravel, and so on. This kind of surface acts as a glue to the tires and prevents from the aircraft from accelerating at a normal rate. …

How to fly: Soft Field Takeoff »

Subcribe and stay connected

Now we’ll be doing a soft field takeoff. What is a soft field? A soft field is a runway/taxi surface that is grass, water, snow, mud, loose dirt, soft gravel, and so on. This kind of surface acts as a glue to the tires and prevents from the aircraft from accelerating at a normal rate.

Additionally, protecting our propellor is key. Ofttimes these types of airports also have the potential for potholes, ruts, gopher holes, etc. If our nose wheel was to drop into one of those holes with a good amount of weight on it, it could cause it to dip into the hole or rut, and cause a prop strike. That’s a big, expensive and dangerous mistake.

When operating on a soft field, we don’t come to a stop. If we need to do our runup before, we get that done. But once we start moving onto the runway, we stay moving. Even during the taxi you’ll add back pressure on the yoke. The slipstream of the propellor causes enough effectiveness on the elevator that this actually does take quite a bit of weight off of the nose wheel.

Now moving into takeoff position, and with one notch of flaps, we smoothly add full power while still holding back on the yoke.

During this takeoff roll we’re going to be actively flying the airplane even though we’re not airborne yet. With all that power, and with that yoke back, we’ll have not only a lot of need for right rudder, but we can vary the pitch.

We want to find a pitch angle, or angle of attack, that is going to get our nose wheel off the runway. Pull back TOO much and you’ve not created too much drag, and you won’t become airborne as fast as you could. So you’ve gotta find that sweet spot.

Because we already have back pressure on the yoke with a higher angle of attack, and that nose wheel is already off the runway, we’re going to become airborne before the aircraft is really ready to fly. The good news is we have a friend to help us out. That friend is Ground Effect.

Ground effect is a cushion of air, most effective about 1/4 wingspan above the runway, where our induced drag is drastically decreased. In other words, we can ride this cushion, fly at a slow speed, and gain the energy we need to climb out.

So as soon as the airplane becomes ‘unstuck’ from the ground, you’re going to release some of that back pressure and accelerate VERY close to the runway. Literally, a few feet. Don’t touch back down, but get as close as you practically can. The closer you get, the more effective that ground effect.

Once you’re at Vx or Vy, transition out of ground effect, climb as normal, clean up the airplane, and continue onward.

AUTHOR

Chris Palmer

Chief Flight Instructor and President of Angle of Attack. Founded in 2006.

ON THE SAME TOPIC

FULLY LOADED Short Field Takeoff in Alaska + Tree Clearance

It’s one thing to takeoff from a short field, and an entirely different thing to do it with a heavy load. While we weren’t at max gross weight, we still had two grown men on board and a lot of camera and drone equipment. Of course performance completely changes when the aircraft is loaded like …

FULLY LOADED Short Field Takeoff in Alaska + Tree Clearance »

Read more

ACTUAL Short Field Landing in Alaska + Forward Slip, CFIT Avoidance

Now it’s time for a Short Field Landing. To make things more challenging, we’ll be landing in Seldovia, Alaska. Surrounding by terrain and trees, it can be a challenge to get into. Also, we’re going to use a technique of staying higher over the terrain and then slipping down into the runway. Admittedly, I could …

ACTUAL Short Field Landing in Alaska + Forward Slip, CFIT Avoidance »

Read more

ACTUAL Soft Field Landing in Alaska + Trees

During the soft field landing our main objective is to protect the nose wheel and propellor as we land. We land as softly as possible, maybe even with a little bit of power, and hold the nose wheel off as long as possible. A soft field landing is performed when there is grass, loose gravel, …

ACTUAL Soft Field Landing in Alaska + Trees »

Read more

ACTUAL Short Field Takeoff in Alaska + Max Performance Climb ( Vx )

Have you ever done a short field takeoff? I mean at an actual short field? Well this is your chance to live that experience. Most pilots go through flight training and never get to experience a short field takeoff from an actual short runway. Now, admittedly there are much shorter airports than this one in …

ACTUAL Short Field Takeoff in Alaska + Max Performance Climb ( Vx ) »

Read more

Stay Connected

Be the very first to get notified when we publish new flying videos, free lessons, and special offers on our courses.

YOUR FLYING JOURNEY STARTS HERE

ENROLL IN YOUR PRIVATE PILOT COURSES NOW