A running takeoff in helicopter with fixed landing gear, such as skids, skis or floats, or a rolling takeoff in a wheeled helicopter is sometimes used when conditions of load and/or density altitude prevent a sustained hover at normal hovering altitude. For wheeled helicopters, a rolling takeoff is sometimes used to minimize the downwash created during a takeoff from a hover. Avoid a running/ rolling maneuver if there is not sufficient power to hover, at least momentarily. If the helicopter cannot be hovered, its performance is unpredictable. If the helicopter cannot be raised off the surface at all, sufficient power might not be available to accomplish the maneuver safely. If a pilot cannot momentarily hover the helicopter, wait for conditions to improve or off-load some of the weight.

To accomplish a safe running or rolling takeoff, the surface area must be of sufficient length and smoothness, and there cannot be any barriers in the flightpath to interfere with a shallow climb.

Advanced Helicopter Maneuvers
Running/rolling takeoff


Refer to Figure. To begin the maneuver, first align the helicopter to the takeoff path. Next, increase the throttle to obtain takeoff rpm, and increase the collective smoothly until the helicopter becomes light on the skids or landing gear (position 1). If taking off from the water, ensure that the floats are mostly out of the water. Then, move the cyclic slightly forward of the neutral hovering position, and apply additional collective to start the forward movement (position 2). To simulate a reduced power condition during practice, use one to two inches less manifold pressure, or three to five percent less torque than that required to hover. The landing gear must stay aligned with the takeoff direction until the helicopter leaves the surface to avoid dynamic rollover.

Maintain a straight ground track with lateral cyclic and heading with antitorque pedals until a climb is established. As effective translational lift is gained, the helicopter becomes airborne in a fairly level attitude with little or no pitching (position 3). Maintain an altitude to take advantage of ground effect, and allow the airspeed to increase toward normal climb speed. Then, follow a climb profile that takes the helicopter through the clear area of the height/velocity diagram (position 4). During practice maneuvers, after having climbed to an altitude of 50 feet, establish the normal climb power setting and attitude.

NOTE: It should be remembered that if a running takeoff is necessary for most modern helicopters, the helicopter is very close to, or has exceeded the maximum operating weight for the conditions (i.e., temperature and altitude).

The height/velocity parameters should be respected at all times. The helicopter should be flown to a suitable altitude to allow a safe acceleration in accordance with the height/velocity diagram.

Common Errors

  1. Failing to align heading and ground track to keep surface friction to a minimum.
  2. Attempting to become airborne before obtaining effective translational lift.
  3. Using too much forward cyclic during the surface run.
  4. Lowering the nose too much after becoming airborne, resulting in the helicopter settling back to the surface.
  5. Failing to remain below the recommended altitude until airspeed approaches normal climb speed.