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Ratty's Ramblings - Short Takeoffs


Ratty's Ramblings - Short Takeoffs

By Ian Radcliffe



With all the scenery packages and individual airfields available in freeware and payware, there are innumerable enticing little aerodromes dotted around the flightsim world these days. Occasionally, if I see an interesting looking airfield on my travels, I'll break my trip and drop in to check it out. I'll usually look up the runway length, to make sure that whatever I'm flying will fit, but even if it's not on the chart, my experienced eye can generally tell whether it's too short. So I'll land, and taxi around to explore the scenery - and then remember what I seem to forget every time.


Most airplanes take a lot less room to get down and stopped than they do to get up, especially if there are obstacles. A Cessna 172 at sea level and a temperature of 20 degrees Centigrade can clear the quintessential 50-foot obstacle, land and stop in 1,350 feet. Its takeoff, however, will require 1,750 feet to get to fifty feet. And to get even that performance demands a different technique than normal takeoffs.


This is not just true of "short fields". Heat and altitude can make even a long runway short. The same 172 landing at an elevation of 5,000 feet needs 1,535 feet to clear the obstacle and come to a stop, but a whopping 2,920 to take off to fifty feet - almost twice the distance. And at 8,000 feet and twenty degrees, the takeoff roll alone requires 2,525 feet, and distance to fifty feet is 5,315 feet!


Short takeoff techniques vary little from plane to plane. Mostly, the difference is whether flap is used, and how much. If you have a Pilot's Operating Handbook for your craft, the information will be in there. Cessna seems to recommend ten degrees of flap for their 172. In the Cherokee book, Piper suggest "up to 25".


A short field takeoff checklist for the 172 looks something like this:


  1. Flaps - 10 degrees
  2. Use all available runway
  3. Hold brakes
  4. Apply full power/check engine instruments
  5. Brake release/rotate at 51 kts
  6. Climb at Vx, 56 knots, until obstacle is cleared, then raise the flaps and climb at Vy


"Use all available runway" means start as far back as possible. Many fields have displaced thresholds, which means you can't land on the first bit of the runway, but nothing precludes you taking off from it.


There is still debate over the efficacy of running up the engines against the brakes; some claim that cavitation makes the propeller less efficient, and advancing the throttle on the roll is the way to go. It does sound good, though, and I find the roaring and shaking sets the right frame of mind for the task ahead.


Ah, yes - Vx and Vy. If you do have a POH, in there you'll probably find two speeds for climb: Vx and Vy. Vx, the slower of the two, gives you the best ANGLE of climb, and therefore the best obstacle clearance. Vy gives the best RATE; for the 172 that's around 77 knots.


And remember: just as temperature and altitude affect performance, there are other considerations to factor in; wind, slope, and surface should all be taken into account. A tailwind that is 10% of your takeoff speed will add about 20% to the distance required, a 2% slope will add 10%, and grass adds up to 30%.







I've owned a lot of controllers in my time. I've had yokes, and sticks, and HOTAS setups. I had one of the first sets of rudder pedals from Thrustmaster. But some years ago I decided enough was enough. Am I, for verisimilitude, required to switch from yoke to stick when I climb out of my V-tail Bonanza and into my P-51? And what about a P-38, a fighter with a yoke? Or an Airbus, an airliner with a stick, and on the left side, too?


I've often been asked what the "minimum" setup is. It's simple. You want a setup that allows you to control pitch and roll with one hand, power with the other hand, and yaw with your feet. Whether the pitch/roll control comes from a stick or a yoke is incidental, but I do consider the pedals almost essential. I know there are twist-grip sticks, I used one in my out-of-town, flying-on-a-laptop phase. But flying is a whole-body thing, and your legs and feet need to be involved.


And that's it. With this setup and a keyboard you can fly anything. Of course, beyond this basic setup, there are plenty of accessories to enhance the experience. Programmable switches feel more "real" than the keyboard, so consider those in your choice of controllers. My joystick has twelve buttons and a hat switch, my throttle quadrant six switches. The latter also has six levers: if you fly planes with more than one engine it's nice to have a throttle setup that allows you to control the engines individually, and if you're into propeller aircraft, prop and mixture controls, usually activated with levers or push-pull knobs in real planes, add to the real-plane feel.


All peripheral options share the same intent: to get you away from the keyboard and make your simming experience more "immersive". And the sky is, as they say, the limit. I have a friend who has replicated in excruciating detail the nose section and flight deck of a Boeing 737 in his spare room. I think that's a bit over the top - but I have to admit that flying it is a remarkably immersive experience.






Hello, Helo

I bought my first payware helicopter recently. I didn't like it.


If you've followed these articles, you will have gathered that my passion is for realistic flight and operating characteristics. That's why I fly A2A's birds; since I don't enjoy complex systems management, their prop planes are the natural choice for me, and the Accu-sim technology brings the level of flying realism I like and engines that I can damage or destroy if I treat them wrong.


I'm not a big fan - no pun intended - of flightsim helicopters. Real-life helos are harder to fly than airplanes, and that is also true in the sim - at first. But, because they're an attempt to replicate helicopter dynamics with a flightsim engine designed to replicate airplanes, they are inevitably simplified versions of the real thing. One of my Misfit Squadron accomplices recently bought a newly-released P3D helicopter about which he was very enthusiastic, and that prompted me to look at payware helos, wondering if there was, perhaps, something out there that measured up to my exacting standards. It turns out there is.


There is a fair selection of payware helicopters out there, but I had a specific type in mind, and hunted down the "best" version I could find. I installed it and flew it. It was OK; but JUST OK. So with that relegated to the probably-never-again hangar, I went back to looking. I began to find hints of a helicopter out there that was "a quality helicopter simulator", and "a very unique product", and eventually tracked it down.


The DodoSim 206 has been around since 2012. It looks like the default Bell in FSX. Even the cockpit, at first glance, looks the same, and it doesn't sport the gee-whiz graphics that we've come to expect. It works in FSX, but only in early versions of P3D. But the way it flies!






There are five selectable levels of realism. At level five, incorrect starting procedures can set your engine on fire. I can check that one off. In flight, I've encountered VRS, vortex ring state, for the first time. Features include retreating blade stall, transverse flow, realistic torque-induced yaw, accrued wear and damage, and mechanical failures. The list goes on, but it amounts to what I look for in any sim bird: an exciting, challenging, immersive experience.


It is just a Bell 206. It is dated. But the way it flies...!


Spelling Test


H A N G - R




H A N G - R



Ratty's Ramble

This time, take a 190 nm scenic trip from Milan to Innsbruck. From Milano Linate, LIML, fly east for 66 nm to just past the south end of Lago di Garda. Then just follow the A22 autostrada up into the mountains to the Brenner Pass, then down the A13 autobahn into Innsbruck, Austria, landing at LOWI.






Skyvector link

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