How to take off and land an airplane

Written by peter matthews
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How to take off and land an airplane
How to take off and land an airplane. (Digital Vision./Digital Vision/Getty Images)

Take-off and landing are the two times during a flight when an airplane is at its most vulnerable- as are all the people on-board. Learning how to fly and safely complete these manoeuvres is a complicated matter and requires tuition from skilled professionals. However if you are looking for some information before deciding whether to embark on a course of flying lessons, or simply thinking of trying a flight simulation game, then there are some basic principles to follow.

Skill level:



  1. 1

    Begin by going through the pre take-off check list for your plane. This is essential; to make sure that your plane is safe and ready for flight. Having a written check list is important, to ensure nothing is forgotten. Go through the list thoroughly and carefully. The exact list will vary slightly dependent on the airplane you are flying, but if you do not own the plane you are flying the check list should be supplied for you. Checks are carried out at three different times; before you start the engines, as you taxi and immediately before take-off itself. Before you taxi the plane you will check the condition of the exterior of the plane. Once you have boarded the plane all instruments will be checked to see they are working properly as well as the fuel levels radio, navigation systems and controls. In addition external factors like weather conditions whether correct flight plans have been logged must be checked. You will then be ready to taxi.

  2. 2

    Follow the instructions from the control tower to taxi your airplane to the end of the runway and await clearance to take-off. Once the engine and you are beginning to taxi there are other pre flight checks to carry out.Instrument readings must bemonitored to see that everything is normal and running as it should. Throttles, fuel mixture and brakes must be tested and these will be checked again, as will the instruments, as you run the engines up immediately before take-off.

  3. 3

    Move the plane onto the end of the runway when instructed to by the tower and line up the nose with the centre line. When clearance is received for take-off, release the parking brake and increase thrust. After the airplane's speed has begun to build up, you can further increase the thrust to the correct level for take-off. This will be at, or close to, 100% of power. Generally the time from having your engines idling to running at full power will be three or four seconds. The aircraft’s direction can be controlled by the rudder pedals. Remember that at high speeds only small corrections are needed, it is easy to make the plane swerve if you are too rough on the pedals.

  4. 4

    Wait until take off speed has been reached and then steadily pull back on the joystick until you feel the airplane lift from the ground and see a positive rate of climb being recorded on the instruments.

  5. 5

    Maintain a steady climb rate, do not climb too quickly or you may risk stalling. Keep the wings level, as this will help keep the aircraft flying straight whilst you climb. Follow the directions of the control tower as to when it is safe, or necessary, to make your first turn.

  6. 6

    Begin your preparations for landing, as with take-off, by carefully going through the check list. Again, the exact details will vary from aircraft to aircraft but some items it should include are: seat belts, fuel, giros, flaps and landing gear.

  7. 7

    Reduce speed to the correct range for operating your flaps during approach when you are still about five miles away from the runway. If necessary, your altitude at this time should be brought down to 2000 feet.

  8. 8

    Lower the landing gear and check it is fully engaged. Lower our flaps a notch

  9. 9

    Adjust your power and the pitch of the aircraft as necessary during the approach to the runway, maintaining a steady descent along the indicated glide path. The front of the aircraft should appear to maintain a constant position on your touchdown point on the runway as you approach.

  10. 10

    Lower your flaps another notch when you pass a point two miles out from the runway. As doing this will increase the drag of the aircraft you may need to increase power to maintain the angle of descent. The flaps will be lowered the rest of the way when you are on final approach.

  11. 11

    Reduce the power right down as you cross the end of the runway. Pull the nose of the aircraft up as it settles towards the ground. Once the main wheels touch the ground hold the nose up until the nose wheel settles down of its own accord as speed reduces. Once all wheels are down put the elevator controls into a neutral position and use the rudder controls to steer the plane down the runway.

Tips and warnings

  • Landing an airplane, especially a small one, is partly a matter of feel. Be prepared for the occasional bumpy landing until you have mastered the techniques. Even with instructors to guide you it takes practise to develop the right touch to make a smooth landing.
  • The safety checks do not stop once the plane has left the runway and is in the air, all instruments and controls must be monitored closely throughout your flight.

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