Learning to Fly with Flight Simulator

by John Rafferty

Phase 3: Takeoff and Climb

Many of the problems experienced by beginners are the result of improper takeoff. If you race down the runway and just jerk the airplane abruptly into the air, you'll probably have trouble—and the trouble will still be with you when you try to level off.


First, learn to just sit back and relax: Let your fingertips convey your instructions, and let the airplane do the work. Properly executed, the takeoff and climb are simplicity itself, and a climb at the proper rate will allow you to level off smoothly at your destination altitude, without the roller coaster effects that make flying the simulator a headache instead of a joy.

Takeoff. When you're ready to go, first advance the throttle slightly to start your roll, and, when you're lined up correctly, give it full power (F2 on the IBM PC). The tachometer will increase to about 2450rpm. Monitor the airspeed, and, at about 60 knots, raise the nose slightly—nudge the stick back gently. Try just two little notches of up elevator, referring to the vertical slot indicator on the panel.

When you raise the elevator, the airplane will rotate; you'll notice the nose lift slightly. You'll still be on the ground, however, so be patient. The airplane will continue down the runway, gathering speed, and, when it's ready, it will just fly itself into the air.

When you leave the runway, your immediate concern will be to put some distance between you and the ground as quickly as you can. Then you'll want to establish a proper rate of climb. For this purpose, there's another instrument on the panel that you'll find to be your closest friend.

Vertical Speed Indicator. The vertical speed (or rate of climb) indicator is the round instrument just below the altimeter, at the bottom center of the panel.

When the needle points directly left, to the nine o'clock position where the instrument reads 0, the airplane is neither climbing nor descending.

If it points up and to the left, to the numeral 5, the airplane is climbing at 500 feet per minute (500fpm). Pointing up to the numeral 10 indicates a climb at 1000fpm, while pointing down to 5 indicates you're descending at 500fpm, and so on. The vertical speed indicator is more sensitive than the altimeter—it shows a climb or descent first; the altimeter follows.

Climb. Standard procedure is to climb and descend at 500fpm. Therefore, you'll first climb a few hundred feet above the airport; then you should begin to gradually throttle back until the vertical speed indicator needle settles on 500fpm—pointing up steadily to the numeral 5. About 2250rpm will usually do it.

(On the IBM, after lift-off immediately raise the gear—press G; then you'll also need to begin to slowly lower the nose as you reduce the engine RPM. You'll get a 500fpm climb at 100 knots and 2000rpm if the elevator is centered in the indicator slot.)

(On 68000 machines, immediately after lift-off raise the gear by clicking on the panel indicator. Then throttle back at once to around 2300rpm, and begin to gradually ease forward on the stick (lower the nose) to reduce the rate of climb. Continue to throttle back, to about 2000rpm, and to ease forward on the stick—gradually—until the elevator indicator is one full tick mark below center. This takes patience, but you'll end up with a 500fpm climb and an airspeed of about 120 knots at 2000rpm.)

From the Right-Hand Seat

Takeoff. After writing down the time, advance the throttle slightly; get the airplane rolling straight down the strip; then give it full power (F2 on the PC). At about 60 knots, up elevator (stick back)—but just slightly (two notches). Let the airplane fly itself off the ground.

(On the IBM and 68000—immediately raise the landing gear.)

Climb. When 300 feet or so above the ground, throttle back slightly. A tap or two on the throttle key should do it.

Give the engine a moment to respond, then glance at your rate of climb. Reduce the power a little further, now. With the stick position set to two notches of up elevator, you'll usually get a 500fpm climb at just about 2250rpm.

(On the IBM: Lower the nose, gradually. Try getting the elevator centered and reaching 2000rpm, which will give a 500fpm climb at about 100 knots).

(On the 68000: Power back to 2000rpm; gradually begin to lower the nose; and continue lowering it so as to end up with the elevator indicator one tick mark below center for a 500fpm climb at 120 knots.)

ATC: Three Zero Four Six Foxtrot maintain heading three one zero degrees. Contact Kennedy Departure on one twenty-one point one. Good day.

Pilot: Four Six Foxtrot, so long.

You've been handed off to Kennedy Departure, so you'd now switch frequencies and see what they have in mind for us. They know we're going to Bridgeport, so you can expect them to route us around to the right and up along the East River.

Pilot: Kennedy Departure, Piper Three Zero Four Six Foxtrot.
ATC: Four Six Foxtrot Kennedy climb and maintain eighteen hundred. Heading three one zero degrees.
Pilot: Four Six Fox.

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