The reason for learning to fly by reference to instruments alone is to expand a pilot’s abilities to operate an aircraft in visibility less than VFR. Another valuable maneuver to learn is the instrument takeoff. This maneuver requires the pilot to maneuver the aircraft during the takeoff roll by reference to flight instruments alone with no outside visual reference. With practice, this maneuver becomes as routine as a standard rate turn.

The reason behind practicing instrument takeoffs is to reduce the disorientation that can occur during the transitional phase of quickly moving the eyes from the outside references inside to the flight instruments.

One EFD system currently offers what is trademarked as synthetic vision. Synthetic vision is a three-dimensional computer-generated representation of the terrain that lies ahead of the aircraft. The display shows runways as well as a depiction of the terrain features based on a GPS terrain database. Similar to a video game, the display generates a runway the pilot can maneuver down in order to maintain directional control. As long as the pilot tracks down the computer-generated runway, the aircraft remains aligned with the actual runway.

Not all EFD systems have such an advanced visioning system. With all other systems, the pilot needs to revert to the standard procedures for instrument takeoffs. Each aircraft may require a modification to the maneuver; therefore, always obtain training on any new equipment to be used.

In order to accomplish an instrument takeoff, the aircraft needs to be maneuvered on the centerline of the runway facing the direction of departure with the nose or tail wheel straight. Assistance from the instructor may be necessary if the pilot has been taxiing while wearing a view limiting device. Lock the tail wheel, if so equipped, and hold the brakes firmly to prevent the aircraft from creeping. Crosscheck the heading indicator on the PFD with the magnetic compass and adjust for any deviations noted on the compass card. Set the heading to the nearest 5 degree mark closest to the runway heading. This allows the pilot to quickly detect any deviations from the desired heading and allows prompt corrective actions during the takeoff roll. Using the omnibearing select (OBS) mode on the GPS, rotate the OBS selector until the needle points to the runway heading. This adds additional situational awareness during the takeoff roll. Smoothly apply power to generate sufficient rudder authority for directional control. Release the brakes and continue to advance the power to the takeoff setting.As soon as the brakes are released, any deviation in heading needs to be corrected immediately. Avoid using brakes to control direction as this increases the takeoff roll, as well as provides the potential of overcontrolling the aircraft.

Continuously cross-check the ASI and the heading indicator as the aircraft accelerates. As the aircraft approaches 15-25 knots below the rotation speed, smoothly apply aft elevator pressure to increase the pitch attitude to the desired takeoff attitude (approximately 7° for most small airplanes). With the pitch attitude held constant, continue to cross-check the flight instruments and allow the aircraft to fly off of the runway. Do not pull the aircraft off of the runway. Pulling the aircraft off of the runway imposes left turning tendencies due to P-Factor, which will yaw the aircraft to the left and destabilize the takeoff.

Maintain the desired pitch and bank attitudes by referencing the attitude indicator and cross-check the VSI tape for an indication of a positive rate of climb. Take note of the magenta 6-second altimeter trend indicator. The trend should show positive. Barring turbulence, all trend indications should be stabilized. The airspeed trend indicator should not be visible at this point if the airspeed is being held constant. An activation of the airspeed trend indicator shows that the pitch attitude is not being held at the desired value and, therefore, the airspeed is changing. The desired performance is to be climbing at a constant airspeed and vertical speed rate. Use the ASI as the primary instrument for the pitch indication.

Once the aircraft has reached a safe altitude (approximately 100 feet for insufficient runway available for landing should an engine failure occur) retract the landing gear and flaps while referencing the ASI and attitude indicator to maintain the desired pitch. As the configuration is changed, an increase in aft control pressure is needed in order to maintain the desired pitch attitude. Smoothly increase the aft control pressure to compensate for the change in configuration. Anticipate the changes and increase the rate of cross-check. The airspeed tape and altitude tape increases while the VSI tape is held constant. Allow the aircraft to accelerate to the desired climb speed. Once the desired climb speed is reached, reduce the power to the climb power setting as printed in the POH/AFM. Trim the aircraft to eliminate any control pressures.

Common Errors in Instrument Takeoffs

Common errors associated with the instrument takeoff include, but are not limited to, the following:

  1. Failure to perform an adequate flight deck check before the takeoff. Pilots have attempted instrument takeoff with inoperative airspeed indicators (pitot tube obstructed), controls locked, and numerous other oversights due to haste or carelessness. It is imperative to cross-check the ASI as soon as possible. No airspeed is indicated until 20 knots of true airspeed is generated in some systems.
  2. Improper alignment on the runway. This may result from improper brake applications, allowing the airplane to creep after alignment, or from alignment with the nosewheel or tailwheel cocked. In any case, the result is a built-in directional control problem as the takeoff starts.
  3. Improper application of power. Abrupt applications of power complicate directional control. Power should be applied in a smooth and continuous manner to arrive at the takeoff power setting within approximately 3 seconds.
  4. Improper use of brakes. Incorrect seat or rudder pedal adjustment, with feet in an uncomfortable position, frequently causes inadvertent application of brakes and excessive heading changes.
  5. Overcontrolling rudder pedals. This fault may be caused by late recognition of heading changes, tension on the controls, misinterpretation of the heading indicator (and correcting in the wrong direction), failure to appreciate changing effectiveness of rudder control as the aircraft accelerates, and other factors. If heading changes are observed and corrected instantly with small movement of the rudder pedals, swerving tendencies can be reduced.
  6. Failure to maintain attitude after becoming airborne. If the pilot reacts to seat-of-the-pants sensations when the airplane lifts off, pitch control is guesswork. The pilot may either allow excessive pitch or apply excessive forward-elevator pressure, depending on the reaction to trim changes.
  7. Inadequate cross-check. Fixations are likely during the trim changes, attitude changes, gear and flap retractions, and power changes. Once an instrument or a control input is applied, continue the cross-check and note the effect control during the next cross-check sequence.
  8. Inadequate interpretation of instruments. Failure to understand instrument indications immediately indicates that further study of the maneuver is necessary.