A C172 on a short runway in Microsoft Flight Simulator.

Deep Dive

Short Field Takeoffs/Landings

Bring your skills to the next level by practicing precision takeoffs/landings at two challenging airports in Washington State.

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Bring your skills to the next level by practicing precision takeoffs/landings at two challenging airports in Washington State. You and your remote flight instructor will begin on runway 25 at First Air Field (W16), which is 2100 feet long with upsloping trees at its departure end.

After thoroughly studying the aircraft performance data and practicing a set of takeoff scenarios to ensure your thorough understanding of the manufacturer’s recommended procedures (as well go/no-go criteria and the effects of weight, wind, and density altitude), you will progress to precision short-field landing practice. Explore concepts such as the Latest Touchdown Point, stabilized approach criteria, and ways to manage the risks associated with go arounds on runways with obstacles.

At the end, you’ll be ready to execute a complete flight to the Whidbey Air Park (W10), a quaint little airport tucked into a tight area with many surrounding trees.

While you’re welcome to complete this learning plan yourself, we highly recommend booking one of our flight instructors to help guide you along each step of the way and tailor the content to your specific situation.

This deep dive is intended for:

  • Student pilots (post-solo)
  • Certified pilots who wants a refresher in aircraft performance calculations and short field operations – and to learn systematic ways to manage the risks
  • Sim enthusiasts who want to unlock a new level of challenge – precision takeoffs and landings at the world’s most challenging airports. You should already be comfortable flying a stabilized approach and landing in your simulator.

Depending on your experience level, this learning plan can be covered in approximately 2 to 4 hours. You can use any sim you wish, though it is worth noting that the scenery quality in FS2020 will create a much more immersive experience for these exercises.

Suggested Reading

Initial Sim Setup

Recommended Aircraft TypeCessna 172S
PositionW16 airport, runway 25 (engine running)
Temperature and pressureStandard (15 deg C, altimeter 29.92 in Hg)
Payload2 front seat passengers (170 lbs each), no cargo. (340 lbs total payload)
FuelFull fuel (In the Cessna 172S, this is 53 gal*6 lbs/gal=318 lbs)

Final Flight Mission (after scenarios are completed)

Departure AirportW16 Airport
Arrival AirportW10 airport
Distance19.9 NM
PilotEdge ATC CoveragePAE Tower and Seattle Approach

Practice Plan

  • Gather information about the departure and arrival airports, including runway length, width, slope, obstacles, and the windsock location, using the Chart Supplement.
  • Use satellite imagery from Google Maps to gain further insight into the airports and the runways.

Calculate takeoff and landing performance using POH performance data. If you’re flying the Cessna 172S in X-Plane or FS2020, you can use the POH here (https://flightsimcoach.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/12/C172S-G1000-POH-GFC700.pdf).

  • What do you think is a reasonable safety margin to add beyond the published distances?
  • If the takeoff/landing distance (plus your safety margin) exceeds the available runway length, are there any variables in your control that could help reduce the distance?
  • Be sure to consider the presence of any displaced thresholds when doing your calculations.

Set up your simulator to match the initial conditions (position, weather, loading).

Review the POH procedure for short field takeoff. Take note of where it differs from the normal takeoff procedure (including technique, flap settings, airspeeds, etc.).

Practice a basic short field takeoff until proficiency.

Reset position to the runway threshold. Modify the conditions for the following:

Wind5 knots of tailwind (wind 070 at 5 knots). In FS2020, set gusts to zero.
Temperature27 degrees C (81 deg F)
Pressure29.75 in Hg
Payload1 additional 170-pound passenger in the back seat

Now perform the same takeoff and notice the difference in performance. Although none of the factors individually seems to be a huge deal, they all add up to create a much more risky situation.

Here’s a real-life example of a short field takeoff that almost ended in disaster.

Determine the runway halfway point and practice applying the rejected takeoff rule of thumb discussed in AIM 7-6-7.

  • Reset the flight conditions to the “normal” initial conditions (loading, wind, temperature, and pressure).
  • Position the aircraft on final approach to runway 16L at KPAE (easier) or runway 16 at W10 (harder).
  • Review the POH procedures for short field landings.
  • Discuss the pros and cons of raising the flaps after touchdown.
  • Decide on a touchdown point, then practice a basic short field landing.
  • Reset on final approach.
  • If using X-Plane, switch to HUD mode using SHIFT+W. Repeat and discuss the difference between the aim point (using the Flight Path Vector symbol) and the touchdown point – and how the aim point needs to be slightly prior to the touchdown point to account for the flare distance.
  • Discuss how to use runway markings to determine the touchdown distance tolerance during checkrides.
  • Discuss stabilized approach criteria and the concept of “latest touchdown point.”
  • Reset flight conditions to those used in Scenario 2 (except with a 10-knot tailwind) and re-fly the approach.
  • Execute a go-around as soon as you’re sure you can’t touchdown prior to the latest touchdown point.
  • Discuss how to manage the risks of a low-altitude go-around with obstacles at the end of the runway.

Reset the flight conditions to the “normal” initial conditions (loading, wind, temperature, and pressure). Plan and execute the complete flight from W16 to W10. For full immersion, consider doing this on PilotEdge and talking to PAE tower.

  1. Start at the parking area close to runway 25 at W16. Brief the taxi route using the exterior view or Google Maps. Practice taxiing so that you use all available runway on takeoff.
  2. If you’re using X-Plane with the Flight Control Indicator, use the FPA (flight path angle) readout to prove to yourself that VX actually provides the best angle of climb
  3. Utilize an After Takeoff Checklist to ensure flaps were raised
  4. Enroute to PAE, use caution for traffic at the S43 airport, the PAE class D airspace, and the Seattle class B airspace. Consider requesting a transition of the PAE class D airspace from tower.
  5. When approaching W10, consider overflying the airport to first check the windsock and runway condition

Completion Standards

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