Takeoff Habits

The following is an excerpt from the September 2017 issue of Model Aviation Magazine. In it, you’ll find the answer to the Facebook poll on the club’s Facebook page. If you have a subscription to this magazine you can read the full article by following the link I provide at the bottom of this post. 


It is common for pilots of both tricycle-gear and tail-dragger airplanes to start the takeoff roll with the elevator at neutral and then start pulling up elevator when it looks like the airplane has enough flying speed” (whatever that looks like?).

However, failing to hold in up-elevator during the ground roll with a tricycle gear airplane allows a lot of weight to remain on the nose gear. The nose gear is therefore prone to buckling and twisting and the phenomena known as “wheel­barrowing,” making it harder to hold a straight line and easier to over control.

In the case of a tail-dragger takeoff roll, failing to hold in up-elevator diminishes the effectiveness of the tail wheel to hold the airplane straight during the early portion of the takeoff roll, before the tail and rudder have become effective. As a result, runway imperfections, engine/propeller forces, and wind all tend to have more effect on the takeoff roll.

In short, whether the airplane features tricycle gear or a tail wheel, it is easier to maintain a straight line when up-elevator is held in from the start of the takeoff roll. Doing so either takes the weight off (“unloads”) the nose gear, preventing it from twisting and eliminating “wheelbarrowing,” or it helps hold the tail wheel in contact with the ground during the early portion of the takeoff roll, helping the airplane track straighter.

The decision regarding how much elevator to hold in is based on whether you wish to have a longer or shorter ground roll. For example, less elevator results in a longer ground roll and a typically higher airspeed liftoff, whereas more elevator results in a shorter takeoff distance and slower speed at liftoff.

The reality is that proficient pilots seldom give much thought to the airspeed, but simply trust that the airplane, will lift off when it’s ready or has flying speed. Those of us who have the preference and style for smooth, scale-like takeoffs generally hold in between ¼ and ½ elevator for most of our takeoffs.

Here is the link to the full article.

September 2017 issue of Model Aviation Magazine

Please leave your thoughts about this in the comments below.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *