Soft Fields

by Josh on February 23, 2012

Soft field operations can be fun in aviation simply because they’re just different. Many private airports are soft fields and many remote airports are soft fields.

What is a “soft field”? Well a soft field simply means that the runway is not paved or concrete. They come in many different shapes and sizes. For the most part soft fields are going to be grass and dirt. Not saying these would be the only kinds but the most common.

Procedures for a soft field takeoff. Soft field take offs can be tricky to some people and to others a piece of cake. Generally when you have a soft field it is going to be a short field also. The most important thing to remember when operating on a soft field is to keep full back pressure on the yoke at all times. This is so important because you need to protect the nose wheel of your aircraft from the ground. When taking off keep your aircraft moving. Taxi onto the runway still applying full back pressure, and smoothly apply full power. Let the airplane rotate as soon as it can. Then instead of pulling back on the yoke and climbing, push the nose down and put the airplane into ground effect. What this means is flying the airplane down the runway one wingspans distance above the ground. Then when you reach your Vy speed rotate as normal and climb out of there.

Procedures for a soft field landing. This sounds simple, but once you go out and do it you will understand just how difficult it is to nail it. It begins just like a normal approach, same speeds, flaps as necessary. The most important thing to remember here is as little breaking as possible. Find a spot on the runway that you want to hit and touchdown there. If your aircraft requires carb heat normally on landing do not use it on touchdown. All carb heat does is it just sucks unfiltered air in and will just bring dirt and junk into the carburetor. Once you touchdown start your aerodynamic breaking. Flaps up, and full back pressure. Avoid breaking unless you really need it. Then roll on out.

Soft field operations can be a blast but can be very challenging at the same time. So don’t be afraid to get out there and practice them. Remember you can always make a go around. Good luck and Fly safe!

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