In our last Clayviation YouTube session, we began a multi-part series showing each phase of a short cross country flight. We began in Smyrna, Tennessee, just outside of Nashville, and started up the engine. This week, we are going to show the taxi, engine run up and takeoff. Where are we going? I hear there’s a good little barbecue joint in Shelbyville, which should take us less than 20 minutes in the air. Hop on in and bring your appetite for barbecue and aviation. Before watching the video, let’s break down a few of the terms to help you understand if you are new to flight training or looking to gain an understanding of the flight simulator setup.

An airplane “drives” on the ground under its own power in a technique called taxiing (pronounced “taxi-ing”). By throttling up the engine, the propeller pulls the airplane forward, like stepping on the gas in a car. The two pedals on the floor are not like in a car, though – those are the rudder pedals, and in our Cessna they are linked to the nose wheel. When you press the left petal, the nose wheel turns left, and vice versa. The top of the pedals have a toe brake, so sliding your feet up and pushing the brake activates either the left or right wheel brake – or both. Pressing both petals will slow the airplane down, and pressing just one petal in coordination with the nosewheel steering can help in a sharp turn.

The rudder pedals control both the rudder and the steerable nose wheel when the bottoms are pressed, and the brakes are added to the mix by sliding your feet up and pressing the top.  I have little rudder pedals on my flight simulator yoke that control direction and map the brakes to other buttons.


Engine Runup
Before we get out to the runway to take off, we stop for a runup. Much like taking a practice swing in golf before moving up to hit the ball, the engine runup is a chance to power up the engine to near takeoff power to make sure that everything on the airplane is running well. Many airports have a designated runup area near the runway for airplanes to taxi off into for the runup.

The Cessna 172 Engine instruments are shown here on the left – fuel quantity and flow, exhaust gas temperature, oil temperature and pressure, vacuum and ammeter.


The airplane will fly when there is enough air moving over the wings to generate lift. Read a little more about the concept of lift here if you’re just starting out. Throttling up to full power at the start of the runway spins the propeller to the maximum and begins pulling the airplane down the runway. As the airplane speeds up, several checks are done. First, you’ll hear “airspeed alive,” which means that the airspeed indicator and its systems are working correctly and speed is being registered on the instrument. That is followed by “oil pressure and temperature in the green,” which is the final check of the engine instruments to make sure that the engine is functioning properly. Then there is a specific airspeed that allows us to take off. In the Cessna 172 we are flying today, that speed is 60 knots. Once we reach that speed, we pull back slightly on the yoke, allowing the airplane to begin a climb. This is called rotating, so you might hear something like “60 knots – rotate.” Now we’re flying!

Lined up on the runway, ready to take off.  Any number of reasons could cause us to abort the takeoff – like that deer about to run out in front of us!


Ready For Departure
This, of course, is a simplification of the departure process, and is not intended to be flight training. The point here is to give you an idea what to look for in the video and why we do the things we do. If any of the checks that are done throughout this process cause concern, the flight is aborted and the airplane brought back in to be checked out. On takeoff, for instance, if the oil pressure is low, or if we haven’t reached our rotation speed by a certain, calculated distance down the runway, we throttle down, brake straight ahead and slow back down. After all, it’s better to be on the ground wishing you were in the air than in the air wishing you were on the ground. I’ll demonstrate some of those abnormal procedures down the road in future videos, but for now, let’s get going to Shelbyville – I’m getting hungry for some barbecue! We left off last time with the airplane having just been started. If you like, you can follow along on a  map of the Smyrna airport (KMQY – our departure airport) and a map of the area to see your route. You can download the checklist here to use or follow along.  Click below to hop in and fly along!

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  1. Andrew Merriam

    Thanks so much for all your videos, and your website. As a student pilot, I really appreciate it.

    • Clay

      I’m so glad they are helpful to you, Andrew. Keeping pushing to get your wings – it’s so worth it. If I can help in any way, don’t hesitate to ask!


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