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9 Factors That Increase Your Takeoff Ground Roll

What affects your ground roll? Here are 9 of the most common factors.

1) Wind

A headwind will provide a shorter ground roll, while a tailwind will make your ground roll longer.

This can be a major operational consideration, especially with the gusty winds typically associated with spring and fall.


2) Weight

The weight of your aircraft opposes lift, so in order to rotate off the ground with a higher weight, you will need more lift, making your ground roll longer.

For many students, the first time experiencing a change in ground roll comes with your first solo, without your instructor in the plane you'll find that the plane will lift off sooner than you are used to.


3) Density Altitude

Less dense air will make your aircraft perform worse, so a higher density altitude means a longer ground roll.

For a deep dive into density altitude check out: 3 Factors That Affect Density Altitude


4) Runway slope

Many airports aren't completely flat, and runways with an upslope in the direction of takeoff will result in a longer ground roll, because your plane must work harder to accelerate.

A runway with a downslope in the direction of takeoff will have a shorter ground roll, because gravity is helping you accelerate down the runway.


5) What is the runway made of?

You might be used to how your aircraft performs on an asphalt runway, but what about a gravel strip? Or grass field?

Generally speaking, the shortest takeoff roll will be on a smooth surface, so an asphalt or concrete runway will have the shortest ground roll.

A gravel or grass strip would likely make for a longer ground roll because there will be more friction for your plane to accelerate to your rotation speed. On gravel and grass strips, you should use a soft field take-off technique.


6) Runway contamination

With summer showers and winter snowstorms, you might encounter a runway that is contaminated with water, ice, or snow. With increased drag, all of these can increase takeoff distance.

In addition to that, if you are forced to reject your takeoff, runway contamination can increase your risk of hydroplaning, skidding, or losing directional control.


7) Frost

Frost on your wings and other surfaces should be removed before attempting to take off according to 91.527(a). Why?

Frost can significantly degrade the amount of lift your wings can produce. Small ice crystals can cause a separation of airflow, reducing your aircraft's lift by 30% or more, and at the same time increase drag by 40% or more.


8) Early rotation

Rotating too early will increase your ground roll. To mitigate this, use the recommended rotate speed (Vr) provided in your plane's POH or AFM.


9) Center of gravity

A forward CG will require more tail down force to rotate the aircraft, causing a longer take off roll.


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Nicolas Shelton

Nicolas is a flight instructor from Southern California. He is currently studying aviation at Purdue University. He's worked on projects surrounding aviation safety and marketing. You can reach him at

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