Short Fields

by Josh on February 23, 2012

Short fields are a very fun thing in aviation. They are a challenge to some but a joy to others. All airplanes handle them differently. But weather you’re in a Cessna 150 or a 747, here are some basics that will always stay the same.

First off, what is a short field? Well some people may consider any field under 3000’ to be short, but generally a short field will be classified in the 1500’-2500’ range. Below that, it might as well be called a helipad. Normally short fields are going to have an obstacle at the end. That’s why it would be a short field.

Procedures for a short field takeoff. Short field takeoffs can be tricky, but practice enough and it’ll feel awesome. Anyway, check you’re P.O.H., but most aircraft are going to require some flaps. Once you taxi on to the runway, you’re going to want to hold those brakes. Then still holding the brakes apply full power and check that your engine gauges are in the green. We do this for a faster acceleration. Then when everything is ok, release the brakes evenly and start your way down the runway. Rotate as early as you can just to get off the ground. Then instead of pulling back on the yoke, push it forward and put the airplane in ground effect. Then fly down the runway to build up speed and then climb out normally at your Vx speed.

Procedures for a short field landing. Short field landings are not much different than regular landings but there are a few important things that can make or break your landing. The approach is pretty much the same for all runways. Normally you would enter on the downwind unless instructed otherwise. Nail your approach speeds. This is so important so that you can put it down in the right spot in order to have enough room to break. Select a point on the runway that you want to touchdown at and aim ahead of it. Because we know that you are going to float a little bit. Most aircraft are going to require full flaps but again, check your POH for details on your aircraft. Once you touchdown at your point, use aerodynamic breaking. This means on touchdown retract the flaps, and apply back preassure on the yoke. This puts more weight on the main gear where the breaks are, slowing you down faster.

Short field operations are a very fun thing to do. And in a lot of cases, you might have to do. So don’t be afraid to get out there and practice. Just do some laps around the traffic pattern until you feel comfortable. Remember, you can always make a go around.

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