Normal Takeoff in Weight-Shift-Control Aircraft (Part Two) the Initial Climb

Initial Climb

Upon lift-off, the WSC aircraft should be flying at the approximate pitch attitude that allows it to accelerate to at least the manufacturers takeoff safety speed. This is usually close to the best climb rate speed VY providing the greatest altitude gain in a period of time. Higher speeds should be used if the air is turbulent to assure the WSC does not stall from a strong wind gust. This speed should be maintained during the initial climb out in case of an engine failure. This is especially important with higher power engines and larger wings to avoid a high pitch attitude during this critical phase of the takeoff. With a lower pitch attitude and a faster speed, the WSC aircraft can recover easier from an engine failure on takeoff. This is discussed in greater detail in the emergency procedures chapter of this handbook. For example, from liftoff to 200 feet it is a good practice to keep a low pitch angle to anticipate an engine failure; above 200 feet, VY can be used as a climb speed. [Figures 7-4 and 7-5]

Figure 7-4. Initial takeoff grass strip with control bar pulled in slightly for a higher speed after liftoff in case of engine failure.

Figure 7-4. Initial takeoff grass strip with control bar pulled in slightly for a higher speed after liftoff in case of engine failure.

Figure 7-5. Best climb speed control bar position for this WSC is shown after initial climb where there is sufficient altitude for easy recovery in case of engine failure.

Figure 7-5. Best climb speed control bar position for this WSC is shown after initial climb where there is sufficient altitude for easy recovery in case of engine failure.

After liftoff and throughout the climb, the engine instruments should be checked for proper cooling and oil pressure (if so equipped) since this is the critical time when temperature rises and should stabilize within the manufacturer’s specifications.

The manufacturer’s recommended takeoff power should be maintained until reaching an altitude of at least 500 feet above the surrounding terrain or obstacles. The combination of VY and takeoff power assures the maximum altitude gained in the time during takeoff. This provides the pilot the greatest altitude from which the aircraft can be safely maneuvered in case of an engine failure or other emergency.

Since the power on the initial climb is fixed at the takeoff power setting, the airspeed must be controlled by making slight pitch adjustments using the control bar. However, the pilot should not fixate on the airspeed indicator when making these pitch changes, but continue to scan outside to adjust the attitude in relation to the horizon and the feel of the aircraft. The WSC aircraft can be flown by using bar position and the feel of the air to determine proper airspeed; it is not necessary to look at the airspeed indicator to determine exact airspeed. In accordance with the principles of flying a WSC aircraft, the pilot should first make the necessary pitch change with reference to the bar position, and then glance at the airspeed indicator as a check to see if the new speed is correct.

After the recommended climb airspeed has been established and a safe maneuvering altitude has been reached, the power should be adjusted to the recommended climb setting (if different) and the WSC aircraft trimmed (if so equipped) to relieve the control pressures. This makes it easier to hold a constant attitude and airspeed.

During initial climb, it is important that the takeoff path remain aligned with the runway to avoid drifting into obstructions or the path of another aircraft that may be taking off from a parallel runway. Proper scanning techniques are essential to a safe takeoff and climb, not only for maintaining attitude and direction, but also for collision avoidance in the airport area. [Figure 7-6]

Figure 7-6. Pilots view showing WSC centered in the middle of the runway during initial climb.

Figure 7-6. Pilots view showing WSC centered in the middle of the runway during initial climb.

When the student pilot nears the solo stage of flight training, it should be explained that the aircraft’s takeoff performance is much different when the instructor is out of the aircraft. Due to decreased load, the WSC aircraft becomes airborne sooner and climbs more rapidly. The pitch attitude that the student has learned to associate with initial climb differs significantly due to decreased weight. This can be a dramatic effect since a 250 pound instructor could reduce the total weight of the WSC aircraft by 30 percent. This gives the student the sensation of lying on his or her back during initial takeoff and the reaction is to let off the throttle with serious consequences if the student is using the foot throttle. It must be emphasized by the instructor that the student will seem to be rotated and going straight up, but not to let up on the throttle. The reaction of the student is to pull in the control bar to lower the high pitch attitude. This is where the cruise throttle should be used to eliminate this common problem. The increase in performance is significant when the student first solos in the same aircraft, which must be explained and understood. If the situation is unexpected, it may result in increased tension that may remain throughout the flight. Frequently, the existence of this tension and the uncertainty that develops due to the perception of an “abnormal” takeoff results in poor performance on the subsequent landing.

Common errors in the performance of normal takeoffs and departure climbs are:

  • Failure to adequately clear the area prior to taxiing into position on the active runway. • Abrupt use of the throttle.
  • Letting off the foot throttle after takeoff.
  • Failure to check engine instruments for signs of malfunction after liftoff and climb.
  • Failure to anticipate the aircraft’s left turning tendency on initial acceleration and takeoff. 
  • Overcorrecting for left turning tendency.
  • Overcorrecting for roll.
  • Relying solely on the airspeed indicator rather than developing a feel for indications of speed and controllability during acceleration and lift-off.
  • Failure to attain proper lift-off attitude.
  • Overcontrol of pitch during initial lift-off to climbout.
  • Failure to attain/maintain best rate of climb airspeed (VY).
  • Failure to employ the principles of attitude flying during climb-out, resulting in “chasing” the airspeed indicator.

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