by: Miles Simmons

Takeoff The model must stand still on the ground with the engine(s) running, without being held. The throttle is then smoothly, not suddenly, advanced. After the takeoff roll has started, the nose wheel lifts off the ground (tail wheel for a conventional gear airplane), and the aircraft assumes a climb attitude while still rolling on its main wheels. When the aircraft reaches flying speed it should gently lift off the ground and climb at a gradual angle. The aircraft must not deviate in heading during the takeoff. The takeoff is completed when the model is approximately 2 meters (6 1/2 feet) from the ground. The takeoff should not be downgraded for wing dips caused by turbulence, unless the wings are not immediately leveled. Center of maneuver is liftoff. Downgrades:
  1. Model does not stand still when released.
  2. Changes heading during takeoff and climb.
  3. Model jumps from the ground.
  4. Retouches ground after becoming airborne.
  5. Too steep a climb angle.
  6. Gallops in elevation during climb.
  7. Wings not level at any time.
  8. Throttle not accelerated smoothly.
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bulletThis maneuver sets the stage for your entire flight in the judge's eyes, so doing it well is important. Let's take a look at it one section at a time.
bulletThe model MUST stand still when released.
This requires a slow, steady idle if you are flying from pavement. One of the "tricks of the trade" to help accomplish this is a couple of degrees of toe-in (front of the wheels are closer together than the rear) on the main landing gear -- works just like brakes.
bulletThe throttle is smoothly, not suddenly, advanced.
You need to ease the throttle forward in a steady motion. You can't just firewall it and not expect to be downgraded.
bulletAfter the takeoff roll has started, the nose wheel lifts off the ground (tail wheel for a conventional gear airplane), and the aircraft assumes a climb attitude while still rolling on its main wheels. When the aircraft reaches flying speed it should gently lift off the ground and climb at a gradual angle. Sounds simple enough, but you'd be surprised how many fliers have NEVER taken off this way. They never apply elevator until the aircraft is well above flying speed, then they apply LOTS of elevator. This causes the aircraft to jump off the ground, getting the pilot a downgrade (see Downgrade #3). One of the tricks that my first pattern coach taught me was to apply a tiny bit of up-elevator before starting the takeoff roll and holding it until the aircraft is climbing. The nose comes up gently and the plane almost levitates itself off the ground. You'll be amazed at how smoothly your plane will leave the ground. Of course, this works best with tricycle gear airplanes. Note the following 5 words in the maneuver description: climb at a gradual angle. That means exactly what it says -- a shallow, gradual angle, often as little as 10 degrees. When done properly, it looks gorgeous!!
bulletThe aircraft must not deviate in heading during the takeoff.
Again, this means just what is says. The takeoff roll should be straight with NO deviations from the centerline of the runway. This can be difficult, especially with a tri-gear plane. Another little trick we've learned is to decrease the amount of nose-gear steering on a trike plane to achieve fewer excursions from the straight and narrow during the takeoff run. The same is true following liftoff until the completion of the maneuver. Keep the bird flying straight down the extended centerline of the runway. If you have to crab to achieve this, do it. The judges will be judging the TRACK of the center of gravity of the airplane, not the ATTITUDE of the fuselage relative to the line of flight.
bulletThe takeoff is completed when the model is approximately 2 meters (6 1/2 feet) from the ground.
This is one of the most often overlooked parts of the manuever description, but it is one that costs many pilots a bunch of points. You need to be 2 meters (6 1/2 feet) above the ground and call the maneuver "Complete" before you start your turn away from the runway! It's really not difficult, but many of us seem to go brain dead when there are judges sitting behind us. Just remember -- if you can see sky below your airplane, the maneuver is complete!
bulletCenter of maneuver is liftoff.
Here's a real killer. Most sport pilots set their plane down directly in front of them and then take off. WRONG-O, nitro breath!!! The airplane is supposed to lift off the ground on center, directly in front of the pilot and judges! Obviously, if you start the takeoff roll in front of you, it is impossible to lift off on center. So be sure your caller places the airplane far enough downwind so that the liftoff is centered. This will require some practice.