Here is a quick guide to taking off and the most important things to remember if you’re at all worried about it

Point of no return ( V1)

 For anyone with a fear of flying taking off usually figures high on their list of worries. But despite everything you may feel taking off is a very straightforward procedure. From the mathematical or scientific point of view, there are only a few things to be considered. As long as the aircraft has enough power to accelerate to the right speed then an aircraft will get airborne. The right speed depends upon the weight of the aircraft and the shape and type of wings that it has. Obviously, a heavy aeroplane has to go faster to get airborne than a light aeroplane but bearing in mind runways don’t go on forever there is a limit to how fast we can get an aeroplane to go on the ground. This problem is overcome by the use of wing flaps. These are the parts of the wings that extend outwards at the back of the wing and forwards at the front of the wing and are designed to make the wing bigger and rounder and the fact is that the bigger and rounder or wing is the more weight it can lift for a given speed. To prepare for takeoff the pilots will enter the weight of the aircraft into their flight management computer which will then indicate the speeds to use for taking off. And the flight management computer takes into account the runway that is going to be used for the takeoff, and the temperature, the pressure, even the slope of the runway.

When the aircraft is positioned at the end of the takeoff runway the pilots will accelerate the engines by hand to check that all the temperatures and pressures are within normal limits and then select the power switch and the engines will accelerate to the power required for the takeoff.

Many anxious flyers believe that the engines are straining at takeoff this is not true the engines are probably operating at 95% of the available power. To maintain engine reliability the engines are set to a power which will give a sufficient level of performance required by the regulations.

As the aircraft accelerates down the runway the pilots keep the aircraft aligned along the runway first by use of the nosewheel which can be turned by a wheel in the cockpit and then by the rudder as the aircraft gathers more speed. When the speed is reached for the aircraft to become airborne the call of Rotate is announced by one of the pilots and the other will then move to control wheel backward and raise the nose approximately 15° above the level position. In setting the wings to this angle at the correct speed means that the wings will have enough lift to take the aeroplane safely into the air.  


Before taking off


  1. The weights of baggage and passengers are checked
  2. The runway is checked as suitable
  3. The weather conditions are appropriate 

When Taking Off

  1. The engines are not straining
  2. There is always enough room to stop
  3. There is always enough room to take off. 

During Take Off

  1. Air Traffic Control maintains a safe departure routing
  2. The Crew follow Standard Operating Procedures
  3. The engines are still not straining 

Engine malfunctions

Despite the fact that whatever reassurance one can give about the reliability of modern jet engines many nervous passengers still want to know what would happen if an engine were to have a problem. 

Let’s look at it from two points of view… firstly an engine malfunction doesn’t mean that it is going to stop or that it needs to be stopped.  It might be a temporary problem like something to do with a pump or generator that’s attached to it. Secondly, even if an engine has stopped the aircraft is perfectly capable of continuing to fly on its remaining engines. And if an aircraft has only two engines it is still capable of continuing to fly on the one remaining engine. Indeed on a two-engined aircraft, the plane is able to take off and climb cruise and land on one engine and this is part of the certification of the aircraft.



Even for me there’s a lot of noise on take off, but there are good reasons for this. First, you are surrounded by the noise of the engines operating at high power, whereas in flight the noise is being left behind you. Secondly, the planes’ soundproofing is optimised for cruising flight. The grooves in the runway (to drain water) add to the tyre noise. Thirdly it’s been quiet in the plane as you taxied to the runway and now there’s a sudden change. This will make it seem louder than it really is.

Best wishes,

Captain Keith

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