How to Takeoff and Land on a Short Runway

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Not every pilot has the luxury of a 3 mile long runway. Of course, depending on the plane you are flying, "short" is relative. However, the technique required to takeoff or land on a short runway is similar for many airplanes. For simplicity, this article will mainly focus on smaller aircraft such as a Cessna Skyhawk.

Steps

Takeoff

  1. Obtain takeoff clearance from the tower or announce your intentions on the Common Traffic Advisory Frequency (CTAF), taxi onto the runway and align the plane with the center-line. Taxi as close to the takeoff end of the runway as this allows you to use all the length of the runway. With some very short runways it may be helpful to start acceleration at the hold short line of the runway thus arriving speed at takeoff end of the runway with ten or fifteen knots of airspeed already developed.
  2. If acceleration from the hold short line is not possible, taxi to the takeoff end. Apply your toe brakes and leave the flaps in 0 position.
  3. Smoothly apply full power and release the brakes once the RPM is in the green arc.
  4. Keep the plane centered with the rudder pedals.
  5. By the point of time you reach about 20% below rotation speed, set the flaps to the takeoff position.
  6. Once rotation speed is reached gently pull back on the yoke . This speed, called Vr, can be found in the Pilots Operating Handbook (POH).
  7. If the density altitude and gross weight are both climb at the best angle of climb speed, Vx, which can also be found in the POH. This speed will give you the most climb over distance only until energy (airspeed) bleeds off. At that point you must reduce the angle to maintain the vx speed that is in the POH.

Landing

  1. Enter the pattern as you would at any airport after contacting the tower or announcing your position on the CTAF.
  2. Fly the standard traffic pattern, beginning your descent on the downwind leg abeam the touchdown point of the runway. Dont forget to lower 10 of flaps. When the runway is 45 over your shoulder, turn base and lower another 10 of flaps.
  3. Turn final to align the plane with the runway and lower flaps completely (30 or 40 depending on the aircraft).
  4. Dont forget to lower your gear if your aircraft has a retractable undercarriage
  5. Fly the approach using a point just before the threshold as your reference. Use power to maintain glideslope and elevator to maintain a speed that will not allow this point to appear to speed up or slow down. A couple feet before the edge of the runway, pull the power back to idle and gently flare to lose airspeed and touch down on the numbers.
  6. Raise the flaps and apply maximum braking without locking the wheels. Apply full back pressure on the yoke to keep the weight on the main gear.
  7. Exit the runway to make room for other traffic.

Tips

  • The speeds and technique will vary depending on the aircraft. Be familiar with the aircraft you will be flying prior to the flight.
  • Check the Airport/Facility directory for information about runway length and obstacles at the airport.

Warnings

  • Never fly an airplane without proper training.
  • You must have a student certificate (or higher rating) and a current medical certificate to legally fly an airplane.
  • Be careful not to slow the plane down so much that it stalls before you reach the runway.

Sources and Citations

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