With the Before Takeoff checklist, which includes a pre-takeoff safety brief complete and air traffic control (ATC) clearance received, the airplane should be taxied into position on the runway centerline. If departing from an airport without an operating control tower, a careful check for approaching aircraft should be made along with a radio advisory on the appropriate frequency. Sharp turns onto the runway combined with a rolling takeoff are not a good operating practice and may be prohibited by the AFM/POH due to the possibility of “unporting” a fuel tank pickup. (The takeoff itself may be prohibited by the AFM/POH under any circumstances below certain fuel levels.) The flight controls should be positioned for a crosswind, if present. Exterior lights, such as landing and taxi lights, and wingtip strobes should be illuminated immediately prior to initiating the takeoff roll, day or night. If holding in takeoff position for any length of time, particularly at night, the pilot should activate all exterior lights upon taxiing into position.
Takeoff power should be set as recommended in the AFM/POH. With normally aspirated (non-turbocharged) engines, this is full throttle. Full throttle is also used in most turbocharged engines. There are some turbocharged engines, however, that require the pilot to set a specific power setting, usually just below red line manifold pressure. This yields takeoff power with less than full throttle travel. Turbocharged engines often require special consideration. Throttle motion with turbocharged engines should be exceptionally smooth and deliberate. It is acceptable, and may even be desirable, to hold the airplane in position with brakes as the throttles are advanced. Brake release customarily occurs after significant boost from the turbocharger is established. This prevents wasting runway with slow, partial throttle acceleration as the engine power is increased. If runway length or obstacle clearance is critical, full power should be set before brake release as specified in the performance charts.
As takeoff power is established, initial attention should be divided between tracking the runway centerline and monitoring the engine gauges. Many novice multiengine pilots tend to fixate on the airspeed indicator just as soon as the airplane begins its takeoff roll. Instead, the pilot should confirm that both engines are developing full-rated manifold pressure and rpm, and that as the fuel flows, fuel pressures, exhaust gas temperatures (EGTs), and oil pressures are matched in their normal ranges. A directed and purposeful scan of the engine gauges can be accomplished well before the airplane approaches rotation speed. If a crosswind is present, the aileron displacement in the direction of the crosswind may be reduced as the airplane accelerates. The elevator/stabilator control should be held neutral throughout.
Full rated takeoff power should be used for every takeoff. Partial power takeoffs are not recommended. There is no evidence to suggest that the life of modern reciprocating engines is prolonged by partial power takeoffs. Paradoxically, excessive heat and engine wear can occur with partial power as the fuel metering system fails to deliver the slightly over-rich mixture vital for engine cooling during takeoff.
There are several key airspeeds to be noted during the takeoff and climb sequence in any twin. The first speed to consider is VMC. If an engine fails below VMC while the airplane is on the ground, the takeoff must be rejected. Directional control can only be maintained by promptly closing both throttles and using rudder and brakes as required. If an engine fails below VMC while airborne, directional control is not possible with the remaining engine producing takeoff power. On takeoffs, therefore, the airplane should never be airborne before the airspeed reaches and exceeds VMC. Pilots should use the manufacturer’s recommended rotation speed (VR) or lift-off speed (VLOF). If no such speeds are published, a minimum of VMC plus 5 knots should be used for VR.
The rotation to a takeoff pitch attitude is performed with smooth control inputs. With a crosswind, the pilot should ensure that the landing gear does not momentarily touch the runway after the airplane has lifted off, as a side drift is present. The rotation may be accomplished more positively and/or at a higher speed under these conditions. However, the pilot should keep in mind that the AFM/POH performance figures for accelerate-stop distance, takeoff ground roll, and distance to clear an obstacle were calculated at the recommended VR and/or VLOF speed.
After lift-off, the next consideration is to gain altitude as rapidly as possible. To assist the pilot in takeoff and initial climb profile, some AFM/POHs give a “50-foot” or “50-foot barrier” speed to use as a target during rotation, lift-off, and acceleration to VY. Prior to takeoff, pilots should review the takeoff distance to 50 feet above ground level (AGL) and the stopping distance from 50 feet AGL and add the distance together. If the runway is no longer than the total value, the odds are very good that if anything fails, it will be an off-runway landing at the least. After leaving the ground, altitude gain is more important than achieving an excess of airspeed. Experience has shown that excessive speed cannot be effectively converted into altitude in the event of an engine failure. Additional altitude increases the time available to recognize and respond to any aircraft abnormality or emergency during the climb segment.
Excessive climb attitudes can be just as dangerous as excessive airspeed. Steep climb attitudes limit forward visibility and impede the pilot’s ability to detect and avoid other traffic. The airplane should be allowed to accelerate in a shallow climb to attain VY, the best all-engine rate-of-climb speed. VY should then be maintained until a safe single-engine maneuvering altitude, considering terrain and obstructions is achieved. Any speed above or below VY reduces the performance of the airplane. Even with all engines operating normally, terrain and obstruction clearance during the initial climb after takeoff is an important preflight consideration. Most airliners and most turbine powered airplanes climb out at an attitude that yields best rate of climb (VY) usually utilizing a flight management system (FMS).
When to raise the landing gear after takeoff depends on several factors. Normally, the gear should be retracted when there is insufficient runway available for landing and after a positive rate of climb is established as indicated on the altimeter. If an excessive amount of runway is available, it would not be prudent to leave the landing gear down for an extended period of time and sacrifice climb performance and acceleration. Leaving the gear extended after the point at which a landing cannot be accomplished on the runway is a hazard. In some multiengine airplanes, operating in a high-density altitude environment, a positive rate of climb with the landing gear down is not possible. Waiting for a positive rate of climb under these conditions is not practicable. An important point to remember is that raising the landing gear as early as possible after liftoff drastically decreases the drag profile and significantly increases climb performance should an engine failure occur. An equally important point to remember is that leaving the gear down to land on sufficient runway or overrun is a much better option than landing with the gear retracted. A general recommendation is to raise the landing gear not later than VYSE airspeed, and once the gear is up, consider it a GO commitment if climb performance is available. Some AFM/POHs direct the pilot to apply the wheel brakes momentarily after lift-off to stop wheel rotation prior to landing gear retraction. If flaps were extended for takeoff, they should be retracted as recommended in the AFM/POH.
Once a safe, single-engine maneuvering altitude has been reached, typically a minimum of 400—500 feet AGL, the transition to an en route climb speed should be made. This speed is higher than VY and is usually maintained to cruising altitude. En route climb speed gives better visibility, increased engine cooling, and a higher groundspeed. Takeoff power can be reduced, if desired, as the transition to en route climb speed is made.
Some airplanes have a climb power setting published in the AFM/POH as a recommendation (or sometimes as a limitation), which should then be set for en route climb. If there is no climb power setting published, it is customary, but not a requirement, to reduce manifold pressure and rpm somewhat for en route climb. The propellers are usually synchronized after the first power reduction and the yaw damper, if installed, engaged. The AFM/POH may also recommend leaning the mixtures during climb. The Climb checklist should be accomplished as traffic and work load allow. [Figure 12-7]