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Southwest Airlines Community


Adventurer B
My dad used to say takeoff was the easiest part of flying: "Go fast. Pull up." After doing several thousand of them, I agree. The plane's configuration doesn't change (except for retracting the landing gear, which are useless during flight) until it's well away from the ground. Newer, more powerful engines, make the acceleration quicker, and that makes the whole process safer. The faster you get to flying speed, the faster you get airborne. Faster acceleration also means that, in the event the Pilot wants to stop (abort) the takeoff, more runway is left on which to stop. Those powerful engines allow us to climb out of the low-level bumps brought on by summer heat, and it lets the plane quickly climb above most of the weather ahead. Power is a good thing. You can't have "too much." The only surprise might be wake turbulence from a jet departing ahead. It can be startling, but it is no threat at all to your plane. Until someone figures out how to see air, wakes will always be out there to surprise us. Takeoff pitch angle startles some, but the Pilots rotate the aircraft to a very precise climb angle. (We have to rotate to about 20 degrees to avoid placing too much stress on the flaps.)  If you look outside and it seems the plane is slowing down, you have been duped. The perceived slowing of the plane is due to the fact that it is getting farther away from the ground--the only reference you have.  In fact, the plane is speeding up throughout the process. Another reason people think the pitch angle is so steep is because the Otolith organs in your inner ear lie to you under hard acceleration and make you feel like you are going uphill. Upon landing with all the braking that goes on, you feel like you are going downhill. Watch the front of the cabin during takeoff and landing and see if you can catch your balance system fibbing to you. More about takeoffs: I don't like the feeling of leaving ground especially when the plane shakes. Some take off's are better than others, why is that? The plane will shake. Some runways are rough. After takeoff ,the plane shudders and shakes if it is in any wake turbulence from the plane ahead (almost a given at today's busy airports). Your first clue of wake turbulence is when one wing drops sharply and seems to hang there a couple of heartbeats. Nothing to worry about--it's just rough air emanating from each wingtip. Since air can't be seen, Pilots can only guess where the rough air is. Even if you are in smooth air, you can feel the landing gear turbulence hit the tail as the gear retracts into the fuselage. This turbulence shakes the back of the plane and then disappears as the gear settles into the well located in the wing and belly. Gear turbulence is worse if the Pilot climbs the aircraft steeply, as one often does trying to avoid the wake from the preceding plane. I don't try to force the rotation of the aircraft, I simply let her fly off by herself. She'll go when she is good and ready. No need to rush her. A slow rotation makes the takeoff very gentle, and other than the forward acceleration, which can be rather brisk, the airplane accelerates away from the ground very gently. Initial climb rates are as high as 6,000 feet per minute. That's over 60mph! If I accelerate the plane and then pitch up steeply, I have accelerated your body to 150 mph across the ground and then started an upward acceleration up of 60 mph. If you aren't gentle, you can make the initial climb after takeoff an unnecessarily rough maneuver, but sometimes, you have no choice, as in trying to avoid wake from the plane that departed right in front of you. However, smoothly rotating lets the plane fly away from the ground genty and with a little extra energy because the speed builds rapidly after liftoff. Power is a good thing as it gets you away from the ground quickly. No Pilot has ever had a problem hitting air. It is the ground that always wins. A landing is just a tie.