Jet Airplane Takeoff and Climb (Part Four) Rotation, Lift-Off, and Initial Climb

Rotation and Lift-Off

Rotation and lift-off in a jet airplane should be considered a maneuver unto itself. It requires planning, precision, and a fine control touch. The objective is to initiate the rotation to takeoff pitch attitude exactly at VR so that the airplane accelerates through VLOF and attains V2 speed at 35 feet AGL. Rotation to the proper takeoff attitude too soon may extend the takeoff roll or cause an early lift-off, which results in a lower rate of climb and the predicted flightpath will not be followed. A late rotation, on the other hand, results in a longer takeoff roll, exceeding V2 speed, and a takeoff and climb path below the predicted path.

Each airplane has its own specific takeoff pitch attitude that remains constant regardless of weight. The takeoff pitch attitude in a jet airplane is normally between 10° and 15° nose up. The rotation to takeoff pitch attitude should be made smoothly but deliberately and at a constant rate. Depending on the particular airplane, the pilot should plan on a rate of pitch attitude increase of approximately 2.5° to 3° per second.


In training, it is common for the pilot to overshoot VR and then overshoot V2 because the pilot not flying calls for rotation at or just past VR. The reaction of the pilot flying is to visually verify VR and then rotate. The airplane then leaves the ground at or above V2. The excess airspeed may be of little concern on a normal takeoff, but a delayed rotation can be critical when runway length or obstacle clearance is limited. It should be remembered that on some airplanes, the all-engine takeoff can be more limiting than the engine-out takeoff in terms of obstacle clearance in the initial part of the climb-out. This is because of the rapidly increasing airspeed causing the achieved flightpath to fall below the engine out scheduled flightpath unless care is taken to fly the correct speeds. The transitioning pilot should remember that rotation at the right speed and rate to the right attitude gets the airplane off the ground at the right speed and within the right distance.

Initial Climb

Once the proper pitch attitude is attained, it must be maintained. The initial climb after lift-off is done at this constant pitch attitude. Takeoff power is maintained and the airspeed allowed to accelerate. Landing gear retraction should be accomplished after a positive rate of climb has been established and confirmed. Remember that in some airplanes gear retraction may temporarily increase the airplane drag while landing gear doors open. Premature gear retraction may cause the airplane to settle back towards the runway surface. Remember also that because of ground effect, the vertical speed indicator and the altimeter may not show a positive climb until the airplane is 35 to 50 feet above the runway.

The climb pitch attitude should continue to be held and the airplane allowed to accelerate to flap retraction speed. However, the flaps should not be retracted until obstruction clearance altitude or 400 feet AGL has been passed. Ground effect and landing gear drag reduction results in rapid acceleration during this phase of the takeoff and climb. Airspeed, altitude, climb rate, attitude, and heading must be monitored carefully. When the airplane settles down to a steady climb, longitudinal stick forces can be trimmed out. If a turn must be made during this phase of flight, no more than 15° to 20° of bank should be used. Because of spiral instability and, because at this point an accurate trim state on rudder and ailerons has not yet been achieved, the bank angle should be carefully monitored throughout the turn. If a power reduction must be made, pitch attitude should be reduced simultaneously and the airplane monitored carefully so as to preclude entry into an inadvertent descent. When the airplane has attained a steady climb at the appropriate en route climb speed, it can be trimmed about all axes and the autopilot engaged.