Short Runways – The Difficulty of Taking Off and Landing

Taking off and landing on short runways presents challenges to pilots, even for those flying in smaller airplanes.  It is common knowledge that taking off and landing are the most dangerous parts of every flight, simply because they require pilots to operate the plane close to the ground where gravity, wind, obstructions, and other obstacles can affect operation of the plane.

short runways

Runway Dimensions

Runway dimensions vary from short runways as small as 245 meters or 804 feet to extremely large runways of 11,917 meters or 39,098 feet, and vary depending on the average size of the planes that takeoff and land at the airport.  Runways also have declared distances to help pilots determine the areas available for takeoff and landing.  Takeoff Run Available (TORA) describes he length of the runway available and suitable for the plane to take off.  Takeoff Distance Available (TODA) describes the TORA plus the clearway, an area beyond the paved runway that is free of obstructions should the plane have to overshoot the runway.  Landing Distance Available (LDA) is the length declared available for the landing of the plane.

Takeoff and Landing Adjustments

For pilots taking off or landing on short runways, adjustments must be made to ensure the length of the runway is considered.  Planes must taxi differently and adjustments must be made to rotation speed, rudder pedals and the angle of the climb during takeoff to compensate for the shorter runway.  During landing, special attention must be paid to obstacles surrounding the runway, while making significant adjustments to flap degrees, pressure on the yoke and airspeed to be sure they do not overshoot the runway.

Famous Short Runways

A few of the most famous short runways in the world include:

  • Princess Juliana Airport, St. Maarten – The runway is only 2,400 meters, requiring jets to fly only 20-30 meters over sunbathers relaxing on Maho Beach in order to land.
  • Gilgit Airport, Pakistan – The runway is extremely short and located at the edge of a slope so that even small jet airliners cannot land or take off from this runway.
  • John Wayne Airport, Santa Ana, California – The main runway at this airport is 5,701 feet and is the shortest of any runway in the United States.  In addition, pilots must takeoff at or near full power, climb steeply and make two turns in order to accommodate noise restrictions.
  • Juancho E. Yrausquin Airport, Saba, Netherlands Antilles – In addition to the short runway of only 1,300 feet, pilots must also contend with stormy trade winds, spin drifts, water approaches and cliffs at each end of the runway.

Takeoff and landing in an aircraft is often the most dangerous part of the flight, and short runways can make them even more challenging.  Visit Covington Aircraft today to learn about our aircraft engine and overhaul services You can also connect with us on Facebook and Linkedin.

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5 thoughts on “Short Runways – The Difficulty of Taking Off and Landing

  1. Follow your articles on Face Book. Hate to be a nit picker, but in your above article you state the John Wayne airport runway of 5,701 feet is the shortest in the U.S. Our runway here at KJAS Bell Field, Jasper County, Texas is only 5,500 feet. Perhaps you meant to say ‘one of the shortest’….Keep the good articles coming. I’m no longer active so can’t use your services but I still like to stay up todate on anything related to aviation.

  2. This must be only talking about runways used by twin jets or airliners. I can come up with a whole host of runways at high altitude that are shorter. Enjoy the site and the history notes.

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